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UKE-Wissenschaftler erforschen Gen für komplexes Lernen © Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

UKE scientists researching gene for complex learning

Young brain determines brain performance in adulthood, new study proves

Researchers at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) have discovered a certain phase in the young brain during which a gene has to be activated to enable complex learning in adulthood, the U.S. periodical “PNAS”: reports. The findings may have an impact on the upbringing of children and the treatment of psychiatric disorders underlying brain developmental disorders.

Activating gene arc/Arg3.1

After birth, nerve networks form in the brain during a “critical period” and become the basis for sensory perception in adulthood. “Whether such critical periods also exist for complex behaviour such as learning has long been discussed,” said Prof. Dr. Dietmar Kuhl, Director of the UKE’s Institute for Molecular and Cellular Cognition at the Centre for Molecular Neurobiology (ZMNH). “Our study shows for the first time that this is indeed the case. During a critical period in the early phase of brain development, the Arc/Arg3.1 gene is activated. It is responsible for the formation of nerve networks that later enable complex learning.”

Memory skills in adulthood

The new findings help understand how the influence of genetic and environmental factors on the activity of the Arc/Arg3.1 gene – including experiences in early childhood – can affect memory skills in adulthood, according to the researchers. The team now hopes that their findings will help to create optimal conditions for child development or to improve the treatment of psychiatric diseases based on brain development disorders.

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