Blame myelin for many neuropsychiatric disorders

nhancing myelination and myelin repair -- and the better the myelin, the more efficient the neuron signaling and our "Internet's" function. Specifically, such cholinergic treatments may enhance oligodendrocytes, a type of glia cell in the brain that produces myelin during the brain 's development and constantly maintains and repairs it as we age.

While more work needs to be done to fully understand the role of nonsynaptic cholinergic effects on brain development, said Bartzokis, his hypotheses can easily be tested through in vivo imaging of the brain to study the breakdown and growth of myelin. That will make it possible to directly test in humans the practical utility of the myelin-centered model of the human brain.

Ultimately, it could foster the development of novel treatments, as well as aid in assessing the efficacy of currently available treatments. These include the use of cholinergic treatments that include acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (used to treat Alzheimer's) and nicotine patches.

"Through these rather benign interventions," Bartzokis said, "such effects on the brain's vulnerable oligodendrocyte populations may offer exciting opportunities for the prevention of both developmental and degenerative brain disorders. They deserve much closer scrutiny."


Contact: Mark Wheeler
University of California - Los Angeles

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