Myelin: The Brain's Supercharger

ISBN : 9780190686093

Bernard Zalc; Florence Rosier
328 ページ
140 x 210 mm

The emergence of myelin 425 million years ago marked a turning point in evolution. Consider for a moment the invention of insulated wire, which allows for the transmission of electrical current. Functioning in a similar way, the membrane surrounding nerve fibers, or myelin, enables the remarkable acceleration of nerve impulses. Surprisingly, myelin occupies nearly half the volume of the human brain and is critical for our intellectual and motor performance. Without myelin, our thoughts and our movements would suffer overwhelming delays. We owe our reflexes to myelin: it is what makes us brake when a child dashes out onto the road, or snatch away a hand absent-mindedly placed on a burning hot stove. When damaged, myelin can lead to irreversible disability, cognitive decline, and sensory impairments. The study of myelin's role in the conduction of nerve impulses has led to a better understanding of several diseases including multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Charcot disease (ALS), and Niemann-Pick disease.


1. The vertebrate nervous system and the miraculous appearance of myelin
2. The cellular building blocks of the vertebrate nervous system
3. The discovery of myelin: A long story full of twists and turns
4. A highly sophisticated substance
5. Myelin's three functions
6. A long evolutionary adventure
7. How myelin forms during development
8. Genetic disorders of myelin
9. Multiple sclerosis, an unpredictable demyelinating disease
10. Myelin disorders of the peripheral nervous system
11. Corpus callosum lesions and other disconnections of myelinated tracts
12. Delays in myelination associated with a very preterm birth
13. Myelin and cognition: A fascinating challenge for researchers
14. Conclusion: The gray gold and white gold of the brain: Two treasures with a common destiny
For more about myelin disorders, treatments, and the latest research


The Authors: Bernard Zalc is a neuroscientist and a Director Emeritus of Research at Inserm. He leads the ICM brain and spinal cord research center (Institut du cerveau et la moelle epiniere) at Hopital de la Pitie-Salpetriere in Paris. Florence Rosier is a Science and Health Journalist who regularly contributes to the science and medicine section of Le Monde. The translator: Robert N. Cory is a medical translator and former neuroscientist living in Quebec City. He worked as a postdoctoral fellow at CNRS-Inserm in Montpellier, France.