REWIRING THE BRAIN Connectomics, Neuroepigenetics and Neuroplasticity

Title of Connectome LectureThis seminal lecture on the field of connectomics was presented by Dr Maroon at the main session of the A4M in Las Vegas

Here is an Abstract of the Lecture Below:

We have now entered a new era of understanding the mysteries of learning, memory, mood disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases, autism, schizophrenia and more. Human neurodevelopment and neuropathology are defined by the neural elements (neurons, synapses, fiber tracks and their interconnections) that form the comprehensive map or wiring diagram of the brain – the so-called connectome. Although our genome is fixed at birth, we know epigenetic mechanisms alter chromatin structure through methylation and histone modification and dynamically regulate the pattern of gene and protein expression.

Neuroepigenetics refers to those environmental factors that specifically regulate gene expression in the neuron and subsequently the connectome. The genome is fixed and unchanging. The connectome, however – due to epigenetic factors – is malleable, constantly undergoing structural changes and is now recognized to demonstrate amazing neuroplasticity. Thus, an understanding of epigenetic factors responsible for neuroepigenetic modulation of brain function and structure is critical to understanding normal function and disease states affecting the brain. A burgeoning scientific literature has identified, for example, that prenatal environmental maternal stress and toxins (opioids, marijuana and other drugs) pathologically alter the developing connectome and may be contributory to subsequent neuro behavioral disorders including autism, ADHD, addiction, major depressive disorders and schizophrenia.

Diet and supplements, physical exercise, environmental toxins (alcohol, smoking, lead, mercury, etc.) and uncontrolled stress are all epigenetic factors that alter the connectome and health throughout life for better or for worse. A revolutionary scientific observation is we are not necessarily “stuck” with the brain we have. “Rewiring” damaged neural networks and enhancing neuroplasticity in normal brains is possible through specific epigenetic choices under our control. We will discuss how rewiring the brain is a neuroplasticity mechanism that enables neural activity and the connectome to be modified at any age. Rewiring of the brain connections, which can now be assessed with advanced neuromonitoring techniques, offers a mechanism through neuroepigenetics to escape the constraints imposed by existing brain circuitry.

Our purpose is to describe more fully the connectome and to illustrate specific epigenetic factors now being used clinically to facilitate healthy brain aging and longevity and to rewire the brains of patients suffering from depression, addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder and post-concussion syndrome.

Presented at the American Academy of Anti-Aging 2018 Annual Meeting in Las Vegas