In Print and On the Air
ALYSSA BREWER, a medical and doctoral neuroscience candidate, was the lead Stanford author in a May 19 Nature article titled "Lack of Long-Term Cortical Reorganization After Macaque Retinal Lesions." Brewer and scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany discovered that adult brains may be less plastic than researchers previously had hoped. In children, the brain's ability to compensate for injuries is well known. Kids with severe epilepsy who lose an entire hemisphere of the brain during surgery can regain motor control on the affected side of their body and go on to develop normal language skills. But in the latest research, Brewer's group used functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor cortical activity for seven and a half months after injury to the retina of adult monkeys. The researchers found limited reorganization of the primary visual cortex, results that contradict previous thinking. The findings may have implications for other regions of the brain, and the approach the researchers used may be a key to developing successful neurological interventions for stroke victims. Co-author BRIAN WANDELL, the Isaac and Madeline Stein Family Professor, said the research adds to an ongoing discussion about human brain plasticity. "This debate is roiling in the field of systems neuroscience and has implications for many types of disease states," he said.There is a small crack in the otherwise closed door between the United States and Korea, JOHN LEWIS, an expert on Northeast Asian security issues, told the San Jose Mercury News on June 5. Lewis, a professor emeritus and a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for International Studies, returned last week from his 11th trip to North Korea. During a four-day visit, Lewis met with senior officials involved in the stalled six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program. Despite press reports, he said, the officials he met with said they have no immediate plans to test their nuclear arsenal, and they believe the United States is trying to goad them into a test to sour their ties with China and South Korea. According to Lewis, many North Koreans know their survival may depend on trading their nuclear weapons program to join the world economy. He added that some leaders are sufficiently eager that an agreement to return to talks could come quickly. But if talks do not resume, Lewis said the North Koreans are threatening to escalate their production of weapons-grade plutonium. Lewis warned that the Bush administration's game plan to escalate pressure directly and through China will only backfire. "It will not lead the North Koreans to back off," he said. "They are the ultimate survival regime."