Regeneration of Brain Cells:
For almost one hundred years, it has been a mantra of biology - brain cells do not regenerate. In a startling discovery that could have profound implications for treating brain disorders and injuries, researchers at Princeton University have discovered that new neurons are continually being added to the brains of adult monkeys. The neurons are added to the cerebral cortex of the brain.
The cerebral cortex is the most complex part of the brain and scientists were startled to find neuron formation in this "high" brain area. The cerebral cortex is responsible for higher level decision making and learning.
The researchers found the formation of new nerve cells, a process called neurogenesis, in three areas of the cerebral cortex:
- Prefrontal region which controls decision making.
- Inferior temporal region which plays a role in visual recognition.
- Posterior parietal region which plays a role in 3D representation.
The researchers believe that these results call for a fundamental reassessment of the development of the primate brain. For almost a century, scientists have believed that primate brains do not regenerate or add new neurons after maturity. It was a fundamental tenet of neuroscience that the brain could not repair itself or grow new cells. In recent years, scientists have begun to chip away at the dogma as previous research has shown that other areas of the brain such as the hippocampus add new neurons.
Many researchers believed that these previous results were anomalies or were confined to "lower" parts of the brain. These results are even more startling since they occur in the most advanced part of the brain.
Researchers are optimistic that with further study scientists might one day unlock the key to this process of brain cell growth and use the knowledge to treat a variety of brain disorders and diseases.It is believed that similar processes occur in humans since monkeys and humans have very similar brain structures.
For additional information see:
- Scientists Discover Addition of New Brain Cells in Highest Brain Area
The original news release about the study. (October 14, 1999)
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