'Maturity' molecule helps adolescent brain grow up

‘Maturity’ molecule helps adolescent brain grow up
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When it comes to raising teenagers, parents have an ally—laminin alpha 5, a molecule crucial to the maturing of the adolescent brain—a Yale-led study published Oct. 31 in the journal Cell Reports suggests.

For a decade, the Yale team had sought answers to a fundamental question: How does the brain, marked by frantic growth of synaptic connections between , grow up and mature?

"Up until early adulthood, between cells are wild, more plastic; they shrink and grow and even destabilize sister synapses," said senior author Anthony Koleske, professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and of neuroscience. "In mature brains, synapses become much more restrained, they are smaller and more well-behaved."

The new research identifies the crucial signal in the taming of the adolescent mind as fragments of a family of proteins called laminins, which are crucial to neuromuscular functioning among other biological functions.

The researchers found that mice lacking the laminin alpha 5 gene suffered defects in synapse maturation, leading to fewer synapses by .

Laminins had been overlooked by synapse researchers because their relatively large size made them unlikely to function within the tight space of synapses in the in the brain. The new findings suggest that fragments of the protein bind to receptors of the synapse in adolescent , triggering the , Koleske said.

"Our synapses change when we learn new things, but in order to retain what is learned, synapses must stabilize," said Mitchell H. Omar, a graduate student in Koleske's lab and lead author of the study.

Partial failure of this key signaling pathway may play a role in onset of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, which typically appear during late adolescence, Koleske said.


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More information: Mitchell H. Omar et al. CNS Neurons Deposit Laminin α5 to Stabilize Synapses, Cell Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.10.028
Journal information: Cell Reports

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Nov 01, 2017
Throughout all of human history people began reproducing at puberty and died at about age 26. So 'adolescence' was the period where people lived most of their lives, raising families, working, fighting, and contributing to the tribe; and 'maturity' per the article signaled the beginning of old age.

This is still the case throughout much of the world today. The bar mitzva is when Jewish males declare 'today I am a man', and in previous gens it meant exactly this. Similar rites of passage exist in many traditional cultures around the globe.

So how are we to take a study such as this seriously? It takes a contemporary cultural designation as a biological state and tries to make science of it.

The real reason for 'adolescence' is to keep people from reproducing for as long as possible. School and career take priority over reproduction.

This indicates the degree to which western culture has gone to restrict overgrowth. Overpopulation is still society's greatest threat.

Nov 01, 2017
There is no adolescence in the animal world.

I have trouble recalling a single thing i learned in high school that has been any use whatsoever in later life. And I didnt actually learn how to practice my profession until I left college and began to work.

Most of my time was spent learning how and why not to reproduce.

I don't know but I suspect later gens were instructed differently. Baby boomers matured during a period of demographic restructuring which encouraged growth among minorities and comingling among different ethnicities.

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