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Myelin Breakdown Implicated in Developmental & Degenerative Disorders

Narrator: This is Science Today. A UCLA neuroscientist has uncovered evidence that points to the production of myelin - a fatty insulation that coats the brain's internal wiring - as the weak link associated in both developmental and degenerative disorders of the brain. George Bartzokis, director of the UCLA Memory Disorders Clinic, explains.

Bartzokis: Myelin has many things that can go wrong in development and when that happens, you end up having developmental disorders - such as autism, ADHD, schizophrenia and so on. And if you got lucky and you develop normally, when you get in old age, myelin because it's very vulnerable, breaks down.

Narrator: That's because myelin, which accounts for one quarter of the brain, is made up entirely of lipids and many things including free radicals, damage these lipids.

Bartzokis: Even though it is the very thing that allows us to develop as humans, it is also our Achilles heel or our weakest link.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.