Enhanced Brain Activity Can Boost Myelin Production

Researcher report that higher levels of neuronal activity are associated with increased production of myelin in animal models – a finding which may eventually help the development of multiple sclerosis therapies.

Improving brain function may benefit multiple sclerosis (MS) patients in the future, according to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom examined the brains of animal models (in this case, zebrafish) to determine if changes in neuron activity can affect the amount of myelin produced. The amount of myelin made was reduced when brain activity was reduced. The investigators found that myelin production was increased by up to 40 percent when the neuronal activity of the fish was increased.

“We have a long way to go before we fully understand how our brain activity regulates myelin production, but the fact that this is even something that the brain can do is a good news story,” David Lyons, the lead researcher on the study, explained in a press release. “We are hopeful that one day in the future we may be able to translate this type of discovery to help treat disease and to maintain a healthy nervous system through life.”

The researchers believe that these findings can be used to develop new treatments in the future. They believe that the stimulation of MS patients’ brains could increase the production of myelin, which, in turn, would protect nerve fibers. However, before the therapies can be developed, the researchers want to understand more about brain function control in the complex processes by which axons — the nerve fibers – are coated with myelin.

“The more we learn about how myelin production happens in the brain, the more chance we have of developing effective and targeted therapies to repair myelin in people with MS,” Emma Gray, the Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, continued in the press release.