What if there were a way to treat everything from tinnitus to post-traumatic stress disorder by harnessing the very mechanism that creates the faulty circuits in the first place? Michael Kilgard, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, discusses an experimental new approach—targeted neural plasticity—that aims to do just that.
So far, as Kilgard reports in Trends in Neurosciences, it has been effective in rats, and results of an early trial in humans were encouraging. Still, many years of additional research are needed before the treatment might become clinically available.
Which disorders could be treated with this approach?
Any aspect of brain function that is pathological could—in principle—be restored. We have a better understanding every day of how to activate the right circuits, and we're now learning that if you pair that with the release of certain neurotransmitters, it can drive plasticity.