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Nat Rev Neurosci. 2015 Dec;16(12):756-67. doi: 10.1038/nrn4023.

A new mechanism of nervous system plasticity: activity-dependent myelination.

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Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section, The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The synapse is the focus of experimental research and theory on the cellular mechanisms of nervous system plasticity and learning, but recent research is expanding the consideration of plasticity into new mechanisms beyond the synapse, notably including the possibility that conduction velocity could be modifiable through changes in myelin to optimize the timing of information transmission through neural circuits. This concept emerges from a confluence of brain imaging that reveals changes in white matter in the human brain during learning, together with cellular studies showing that the process of myelination can be influenced by action potential firing in axons. This Opinion article summarizes the new research on activity-dependent myelination, explores the possible implications of these studies and outlines the potential for new research.

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