Adult Brains May Be Able To Generate More Neurons Even As They Age

This study could foretell future developments in battles against disease and memory loss.

A new study published in Nature Medicine supports the hypothesis that the human brain can grow new cells well into adulthood, a process called neurogenesis.

If the study's findings are accurate, it could open avenues for people to recover from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Scientific American. Even more, neurogenesis might be able to address things like Alzheimer's and help scientists better grasp how the brain memorizes and learns information..

The research, which is hotly contested, is moving the scientific community closer to believing neurogenesis occurs in adults.

"I would say that there is an overwhelming case for the neurogenesis throughout life in humans," Jonas Frisén, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, told Scientific American.

Arturo Alvarez-Buylla, who wrote a paper that disputes neurogenesis exists, maintained that the new study was convincing.

"I don't think this at all settles things out," Akvaraz-Buylla told Scientific American. "I've been studying adult neurogenesis all my life. I wish I could find a place [in humans] where it does happen convincingly."

Conclusive evidence, though, could be nearer than we think. Technology is being developed that locates cells in the brain and can measure its individual activity, which could definitively prove what the cells are doing one way or another. 

According to The Guardian, the new research will open up doors to attack early-onset Alzheimer's and other degenerative brain diseases. The findings will help doctors identify Alzheimer's earlier and even give those afflicted with the disease an opportunity to exercise their mind and bodies to encourage neurogenesis. 

Sandrine Thuret, the head of the neurogenesis and mental health laboratory at King's College London, told The Guardian that the findings in the study were a breakthrough. 

"If you could just prevent or delay the onset of cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's for a few years by maintaining neurogenesis, it would be fantastic," she said.

Cover photo: Shutterstock / ESB Professional

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