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An LMU study reveals that sound-evoked activity of neurons in the auditory system of the mouse increases the thickness of their myelin sheaths – and enhances the speed of signal transmission – both during development and in the adult brain.


Excerpt from LMU press relase of August 2, 2017:

Use it or lose it

Nerve cells communicate by means of electrical impulses, which are transmitted along neural processes known as axons. The speed of transmission depends on several factors, including the diameter of the axon and the thickness of the electrically insulating myelin sheaths that surround the axons. As a rule, transmission speeds are positively correlated with the diameter and the thickness of the sheath. In mammals, the functional demands made on the auditory system require extremely precise and rapid neural processing of acoustic information, and it contains a strikingly high proportion of myelinated axons. Using the mouse as an experimental model, LMU neurobiologist PD Dr. Conny Kopp-Scheinpflug and her research group have now demonstrated that the activity of nerve cells in the auditory system has a direct effect on myelinization – higher levels of activity correlate with the formation of thicker myelin sheaths. Their findings appear in the The Journal of Neuroscience 2017.

LMU press release