Scientists believe they may be able to treat a stroke if they could create a drug capable of rewiring the brain.
A stroke is caused by a blood clot in the brain, starving important brain cells of oxygen and damaging them. But researchers think the damage could be reversed if the signals which tell your muscles to move are rerouted via healthy areas of the brain.
The theory is known as “brain plasticity”. It has been proven in children who suffer a stroke as a baby, but manage to regain normal function as they grow older.
Adults, however, show little plasticity once they’ve reached maturity.
Elissa Newport, a professor of neurology at Georgetown University school of medicine in Washington DC, said: “What you see is the right hemisphere, which is never in control of language in anyone who is healthy, is apparently capable of taking over language if you lose left hemisphere.”
She added: “This does not happen in adults.”
The team behind the new study hope to understand why plasticity occurs in children but not adults. This, they think, is the key to treating stroke effectively.