Brain's myelin key to psych disorders?
November 21 , 2006
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The brain's myelin sheath -- damage to which is known to cause multiple sclerosis -- could also be the culprit in neuropsychiatric disorders.
So argues a UCLA neurologist, who says that the brain's "miles of myelin are a key evolutionary change that may make us vulnerable to highly prevalent neuropsychiatric disorders."
The brain's myelin sheath is the sheet of fat that coats a neuron's axon -- a long fiber that conducts the neuron's electrical impulses -- and is similar to the wrapping around an electrical wire to foster efficient signaling.
Understanding the critical role of the myelin sheath in brain function may be the key to developing new treatments for certain neurological diseases, said George Bartzokis, director of the UCLA Memory Disorders and Alzheimer's Disease Clinic.
In a report published in the journal Biological Psychiatry and available online, he called myelin "a recent invention of evolution. Vertebrates have it; invertebrates don't. And humans have more than any other species."
Viewing the brain as a myelin-dependent "Internet" may help in developing new treatments and aid in assessing the effectiveness of currently available treatments, including the use of patch-delivered nicotine, which may enhance the growth and maintenance of myelin.