The study by researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience may be significant in the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders such as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia.
Young brains are capable of forming many new synapses (connections between two nerve cells), and they are consequently better at learning new things. That is why we acquire vital skills—walking, talking, hearing and seeing—early on in life.
The adult brain stabilises the synapses so that we can use what we have learned in childhood for the rest of our lives.
Inhibitory synapses play a hugely influential role on learning in the young brain. People who have neurodevelopmental disorders may have trouble forming inhibitory synapses.
The discovery that the adult brain is still capable of developing these synapses offers hope that pharmacological or genetic intervention can be used manage this process.
The study has been published in the prestigious journal Neuron.