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Brain Rewires Itself After Damage From TBI or Stroke

The hippocampus (located deep within the temporal lobe) is the brain’s primary learning center, and is crucially involved with forming, storing, and accessing long term memories. The hippocampus is a delicate structure more vulnerable to damage from TBI or stroke than other brain areas. Neuroscientists led by Moriel Zelikowsky at UCLA’s Brain Research Institute have just discovered that in rats damage to the hippocampus that disables them temporarily from learning to solve problems can be reversed by spontaneous brain rewiring in the prefrontal cortex (PFC).

Apparently what happens is that one region in the PFC called the infralimbic cortex shuts down while another region in the PFC called the prelimbic cortex becomes activated and begins to form new circuits to compensate for hippocampal damage. Brain scanning of Alzheimer’s patients shows massive damage to the hippocampus with increased activation in the prelimbic cortex so a similar mechanism may be occurring there. The researchers found that activation of the rewiring process is strongest when the rats were taught to solve problems. The inference is that with brain injured people cognitive rehabilitation would spur rewiring in the PFC as well.