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Front. Cell. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fncel.2018.00424

Myelin Dynamics Throughout Life: an Ever-changing Landscape?

  • 1Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Myelin sheaths speed up impulse propagation along the axons of neurons without the need for increasing axon diameter. Subsequently, myelin (which is made by oligodendrocytes in the central nervous system) allows for highly complex yet compact circuitry. Cognitive processes such as learning require central nervous system plasticity throughout life, and much research has focused on the role of neuronal, in particular synaptic, plasticity as a means of altering circuit function. An increasing body of evidence suggests that myelin may also play a role in circuit plasticity and that myelin may be an adaptable structure which could be altered to regulate experience and learning. However, the precise dynamics of myelination throughout life remain unclear – does the production of new myelin require the differentiation of new oligodendrocytes, and/or can existing myelin be remodelled dynamically over time? Here we review recent evidence for both de novo myelination and myelin remodelling from pioneering longitudinal studies of myelin dynamics in vivo, and discuss what remains to be done in order to fully understand how dynamic regulation of myelin affects lifelong circuit function.

Keywords: myelin, oligodendrocyte, myelin remodelling, circuit plasticity, adaptive myelination

Received: 14 Sep 2018; Accepted: 30 Oct 2018.

Edited by:

Fernando C. Ortiz, Universidad Autónoma de Chile, Chile

Reviewed by:

Maria Kukley, University of Tubingen, Germany
Ben Emery, Oregon Health & Science University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Williamson and Lyons. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence:
Ms. Jill M. Williamson, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XD, Scotland, United Kingdom, jill.williamson@ed.ac.uk
Prof. David A. Lyons, Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XD, Scotland, United Kingdom, david.lyons@ed.ac.uk