Plasticity in the developing brain: implications for rehabilitation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Neuronal plasticity allows the central nervous system to learn skills and remember information, to reorganize neuronal networks in response to environmental stimulation, and to recover from brain and spinal cord injuries. Neuronal plasticity is enhanced in the developing brain and it is usually adaptive and beneficial but can also be maladaptive and responsible for neurological disorders in some situations. Basic mechanisms that are involved in plasticity include neurogenesis, programmed cell death, and activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. Repetitive stimulation of synapses can cause long-term potentiation or long-term depression of neurotransmission. These changes are associated with physical changes in dendritic spines and neuronal circuits. Overproduction of synapses during postnatal development in children contributes to enhanced plasticity by providing an excess of synapses that are pruned during early adolescence. Clinical examples of adaptive neuronal plasticity include reorganization of cortical maps of the fingers in response to practice playing a stringed instrument and constraint-induced movement therapy to improve hemiparesis caused by stroke or cerebral palsy. These forms of plasticity are associated with structural and functional changes in the brain that can be detected with magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography, or transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS and other forms of brain stimulation are also being used experimentally to enhance brain plasticity and recovery of function. Plasticity is also influenced by genetic factors such as mutations in brain-derived neuronal growth factor. Understanding brain plasticity provides a basis for developing better therapies to improve outcome from acquired brain injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-101
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Volume15
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2009

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Neuronal Plasticity
Rehabilitation
Brain
Synapses
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
Dendritic Spines
Long-Term Potentiation
Neurogenesis
Recovery of Function
Paresis
Cerebral Palsy
Child Development
Nervous System Diseases
Spinal Cord Injuries
Synaptic Transmission
Positron-Emission Tomography
Brain Injuries
Fingers
Cell Death
Central Nervous System

Keywords

  • BDNF glutamate
  • Constraint
  • Long-term potentiation
  • Plasticity
  • Synapse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

Cite this

Plasticity in the developing brain : implications for rehabilitation. / Johnston, Michael V.

In: Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews, Vol. 15, No. 2, 2009, p. 94-101.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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