Skip to content

Controlling a single brain chemical expands the window for learning language and music in an animal model.

Learning a language or recognizing music is usually a breeze for children, however, this capacity dramatically declines with age.  Now, a study from researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital shows the restriction of a key chemical messenger in the brain helps extend efficient auditory learning much later in life.  The team states limiting the supply of the neuromodulator adenosine in a brain structure called the auditory thalamus preserved the ability of adult mice to learn from passive exposure to sound. The study is published in the journal Science.

Previous studies show the auditory thalamus is the brain’s relay station where sound is collected and sent to the auditory cortex for processing. The auditory thalamus and cortex rely on the neurotransmitter glutamate to communicate, with adenosine also shown to reduce glutamate levels. Circuits in the auditory cortex are highly susceptible to acoustic influences during the early postnatal period, with the auditory cortex selectively expanding neural representations of enriched acoustic stimuli, a process important for human language acquisition.  The current study shows juvenile plasticity can be reestablished in adulthood if acoustic stimuli are paired with disruption of adenosine production in the auditory thalamus.

The current study utilizes a variety of methods to demonstrate reducing adenosine or blocking the A1 adenosine receptor changes how adult mice respond to sound.  Results show when adenosine is reduced or the A1 receptor blocked in the auditory thalamus, adult mice passively exposed to a tone exhibit a stronger response to the same tone played weeks or months later. Data findings show these adult mice are able to distinguish between very close tones, an ability mice usually lack.

Results show the mice retain the improved tone discrimination for weeks.  Data findings show the window for effective auditory learning re-opened in the mice and they retain the information.  The team states they also observed disrupting adenosine signaling in the auditory thalamus extends the window for auditory learning for the longest period yet reported, well into adulthood, and far beyond the usual critical period in mice.

The team surmises their data shows disrupting adenosine signaling in the thalamus rejuvenates plasticity in the auditory cortex and improves auditory perception in mice.  For the future, the researchers state their results offer a promising strategy to extend the same window in humans to acquire language or musical ability.

Source: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Get Healthinnovations delivered to your inbox:

Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio,, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

One thought on “Controlling a single brain chemical expands the window for learning language and music in an animal model. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Translate »