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J Neurosci. 2011 Apr 13;31(15):5625-34. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6470-10.2011.

Natural restoration of critical period plasticity in the juvenile and adult primary auditory cortex.

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Key Laboratory of Brain Functional Genomics of Ministry of Education, School of Life Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China.


Since its first description >40 years ago, the neurological "critical period" has been predominantly described as an early, plastic postnatal brain development stage that rather abruptly advances to an aplastic or less plastic "adult" stage. Here, we show that chronic exposure of juvenile or adult rats to moderate-level acoustic noise results in a broad reversal of maturational changes that mark the infant-to-adult progression in the primary auditory cortex. In time, noise exposure reinstates critical period plasticity. Cortical changes resulting from noise exposure are again reversed to reestablish a physically and functionally normal adult cortex, by returning animals to natural acoustic environments. These studies show that at least some of neurological changes believed to mark the transition from the infantile to the mature (adult) stage are, by their nature, reversible.

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