Adaptive myelination in learning and memory
Prof William Richardson
University College London
How we learn and retain skills and abilities is a major unanswered question in neuroscience. When we learn, communication among neurons becomes strengthened at the synapses, the tiny physical and electrical contacts between one neuron and another. This allows learned patterns of activity to be preserved and reactivated more easily. Another way of strengthening communication among neurons is to insulate and protect their axons – the long thread-like extensions of neurons that allow them to reach out to one another across the brain. The insulation is provided by myelin, spiral wraps of fatty membrane made by oligodendrocytes, another type of brain cell.
We will study adaptive myelination which is how oligodendrocytes detect and respond to electrical activity in axons during learning and how this modifies myelin and changes the properties of neural circuits.
Our findings will illuminate the process of adaptive myelination, the process that allows us to learn.