Learning language or music is easy during childhood, but this capacity dramatically declines with increasing age. Scientists have proven from a study using mice that controlling an important chemical messenger in the brain extends successful auditory learning into adulthood.
They showed that restricting the function or the supply of the neuro-modulator adenosine in the auditory thalamus region of the brain conserved adult mice’s ability to learn from passive exposure to sound just like young children learn from their surrounding’s soundscape.
The auditory thalamus acts as the brain's relay station by collecting sound and sending it for processing to the auditory cortex. These regions viz., auditory thalamus and auditory cortex depend on the neurotransmitter glutamate for communicating. Adenosine decreases glutamate levels by inhibiting its release. This study also found that adenosine inhibition decreased brain plasticity and termination of efficient auditory learning.
Stanislav Zakharenko, the study’s co-author said "These results offer a promising strategy to extend the same window in humans to acquire language or musical ability by restoring plasticity in critical regions of the brain, possibly by developing drugs that selectively block adenosine activity."
The study has been published in the Science journal.