When the brain’s primary ‘learning center’ is damaged, complex new neural circuits arise to compensate for the lost function, as concluded by life scientists from UCLA and Australia who have pinpointed the regions of the brain involved in creating the alternate pathways — often far from the damaged site.
The researchers found that parts of the prefrontal cortex take over when the hippocampus, the brain’s key center of learning and memory formation, is disabled. Their breakthrough discovery could potentially help scientists develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and other conditions involving damage to the brain.
For the study, Fanselow and Zelikowsky conducted laboratory experiments with rats that had suffered damage to the hippocampus. While the rats needed more training than they would have normally, they nonetheless learned from their experiences — a surprising finding.