Blocking a brain-cell receptor boosts the brain's ability to form new neuronal connections as it adapts to changing stimuli.
Carla Shatz at Stanford University in California and her colleagues disrupted the receptor, PirB, in the visual centre of mouse brains by either genetically deleting it or blocking it with a molecule.
They found that when these mice were forced to use only one eye, circuits in their visual cortices were able to rewire better than those of normal mice. This happened even in adulthood, when brain-cell rewiring becomes more difficult. In a mouse model of amblyopia, or 'lazy eye', the blocking molecule made the brain sensitive to signals from the unused eye, allowing better vision in that eye.
Targeting PirB could be a way to treat amblyopia and other brain disorders, the authors say.