90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
A Pill For ‘Brain Youth’?

Imagine a pill that could rewire your brain. Would make your brain young again. Able to learn and absorb like a five-year old. Music. Languages. Would you take it?

An imagine of the human brain. New research into brain plasticity suggests that a generic pill could change the brain's ability to absorb and retain new skills, like language, music and more. (Creative Commons / FlamePhoenix1991)

An imagine of the human brain. New research into brain plasticity suggests that a generic pill could change the brain’s ability to absorb and retain new skills, like language, music and more. (Creative Commons / FlamePhoenix1991)

The brains of children are magnificently flexible, adaptable.  They are super-sponges for learning.  They have a sublime plasticity.  And then we age.  And our brains lose that plasticity.  Become more rigid.  Learning, adapting, becomes tougher.  But what if you could take a pill that took your brain back to that childlike state?  Wide open to learning Swahili or Mandarin or perfect pitch.  Would you do it?  A new study says it may be possible.  A pill to learn a skill.  But what if it unbuckled your whole personality too?  Like a child’s?  This hour On Point:  thinking about a pill to make the brain young again.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guest

Takao Hensch, professor of molecular and cellular biology and professor of neurology in Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

Allan Young, psychopharmacologist and director of the Centre for Affective Disorders at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry.

From Tom’s Reading List

Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience: Valproate reopens critical-period learning of absolute pitch — “Absolute pitch, the ability to identify or produce the pitch of a sound without a reference point, has a critical period, i.e., it can only be acquired early in life. However, research has shown that histone-deacetylase inhibitors (HDAC inhibitors) enable adult mice to establish perceptual preferences that are otherwise impossible to acquire after youth. In humans, we found that adult men who took valproate (VPA) (a HDAC inhibitor) learned to identify pitch significantly better than those taking placebo—evidence that VPA facilitated critical-period learning in the adult human brain.”

New Scientist: Learning drugs reawaken grown-up brain’s inner child –“From bilingualism to sporting prowess, many abilities rely on neural circuits that are laid down by our early experiences. Until the age of 7 or so, the brain goes through several “critical periods” during which it can be radically changed by the environment. During these times, the brain is said to have increased plasticity.”

Discover: “Plasticity Pill” Could Rewire Brain to Treat Autism and Schizophrenia — “Today, a growing number of researchers are examining the complex ways in which immune molecules affect the brain and nervous system. Manipulating such molecules, these scientists believe, may be key to treating many devastating neurological ailments, from autism and schizophrenia to Alzheimer’s and ALS. Shatz even dreams of a ‘plasticity pill’ to restore the neural suppleness of stroke victims — and her latest experiments offer hope that it could someday come to pass. “

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 27, 2015
Flowers and ribbons adorn a tree outside the Weinstein family house in Rockville, Md. last week. Earlier, President Barack Obama ook full responsibility for the counterterror missions and offered his "grief and condolences" to the families of the hostages, Warren Weinstein of Rockville, Maryland, and Giovanni Lo Porto who were inadvertently killed by CIA drone strikes early this year. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

American drone policy and consequences. We’ll look at secret strikes and the evolution of drone war.

Apr 27, 2015
Former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner at a charity event in 2013. (Mark Von Holden/Invision/AP)

Bruce Jenner opens up about his gender journey. We’ll look at the big picture of transgender life in America now.

RECENT
SHOWS
Apr 24, 2015
Dick West (Dr. Walter Richard West, Wah-pah-nah-yah or Wapah Nahya, Light Foot Runner), 1912−1996, Southern Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Cheyenne Sun Dance—The Third Day, 1949. Paper, casein, 24 5/8 x 35 1/8 inches. © 2013 Philbrook Museum of Art, Inc., Museum purchase, 1949.20, Photo: John Lamberton.

Artists of earth and sky. Rawhide, bear claw, eagle feathers and the glory of America’s Plans Indians, on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 
Apr 24, 2015
The Rev. Jamal Bryant leads a rally outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a march and vigil for Freddie Gray, Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP)

Loretta Lynch gets a vote. Race and anger in Baltimore. Migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Petraeus, sentenced. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Your Favorite Musical Memories Of Rain
Wednesday, Apr 22, 2015

When we say ‘rain,’ you say ‘…?’ (Here’s what you really said when we said ‘rain.’)

More »
6 Comments
 
Three LIVE Tracks From Flor De Toloache
Friday, Apr 17, 2015

Fantastic live tracks from the amazing women of Flor de Toloache.

More »
1 Comment
 
Our Week In The Web: April 17, 2015
Friday, Apr 17, 2015

Interactions on Facebook, campaign time begins and a truck full of bees.

More »
2 Comments