Periods of synchronized myelin changes shape brain function and plasticity.


Myelin, a lipid membrane that wraps axons, enabling fast neurotransmission and metabolic support to axons, is conventionally thought of as a static structure that is set early in development. However, recent evidence indicates that in the central nervous system (CNS), myelination is a protracted and plastic process, ongoing throughout adulthood. Importantly, myelin is emerging as a potential modulator of neuronal networks, and evidence from human studies has highlighted myelin as a major player in shaping human behavior and learning. Here we review how myelin changes throughout life and with learning. We discuss potential mechanisms of myelination at different life stages, explore whether myelin plasticity provides the regenerative potential of the CNS white matter, and question whether changes in myelin may underlie neurological disorders.