The brain has a remarkable capacity for plastic responses throughout life: immediate functional plasticity coupled with long-lasting structural change. During early development, there is a continuous growth and modification of connections between neurons and their targets. Recent studies show that remodeling of synaptic connections also occurs in the brain during adult life. In addition, new research proves the intrinsic capacity of the brain to repair itself after cell loss due to injury or neurodegenerative disease. Many of these plastic responses appear to involve common mechanisms for normal remodeling and for repair after injury. The first part of this study is a review of developmental processes and mechanisms of brain plasticity, and then, of some regenerative processes that are involved in rebuilding brain circuitry after injury or neurodegenerative disease. In the second part is included a pilot study of the effects of Tanakan (Gingko biloba extract EGb 761) on the behavioral plasticity and development of infants and toddlers with cerebral palsy. This is the first attempt to evaluate Tanakan effects in neurodevelopmental disorders; usually this kind of medication is restricted to the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and cerebrovascular disease. These data are only preliminary, but they show a certain degree of behavioral plasticity (mainly on social development, language acquisition and perception) after replacing traditional treatment with Tanakan. The basic assumption is that this behavioral plasticity has to be based on some neural plastic regenerative processes, coupled with developmental ones (still active in young children), that are unleashed or augmented by the antioxidative proprieties of Tanakan.
KEYWORDS: plasticity, development, regeneration.