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Study finds continued birth of new neurons (neurogenesis) well into our 70s

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New brain mem­o­ry cells devel­op well into old age (Reuters):

Well into our 70s, we con­tin­ue to devel­op new cells in an area of the brain respon­si­ble for new mem­o­ries and explo­ration of new envi­ron­ments, sci­en­tists report.

These new brain cells sus­tain our abil­i­ties to make new mem­o­ries, learn, and cope with the envi­ron­ment, and they are impor­tant for emo­tion­al respons­es,” Dr. Mau­ra Boldri­ni from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty in New York City told Reuters Health by email…Even the old­est brains pro­duced new brain cells. The num­ber of devel­op­ing and imma­ture brain cells remained sta­ble across the age range, the researchers report­ed in the jour­nal Cell Stem Cell.

There was, how­ev­er, a decline in the abil­i­ty of mature nerve cells to change their func­tion — a prop­er­ty known as neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty — with increas­ing age… “We know that vas­cu­la­ture can become weak­er with aging, and we need to find ways to keep our (blood ves­sels) healthy so that our brain can remain more plas­tic,” Dr. Boldri­ni said. “This means that through healthy lifestyle, enriched envi­ron­ment, social inter­ac­tions, and exer­cise” — all of which help main­tain healthy blood ves­sels — “we can main­tain these neu­rons healthy and func­tion­ing and sus­tain healthy aging.”

The Study:

Human Hip­pocam­pal Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis Per­sists through­out Aging (Cell Stem Cell)

  • Sum­ma­ry: Adult hip­pocam­pal neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis declines in aging rodents and pri­mates. Aging humans are thought to exhib­it wan­ing neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis and exer­cise-induced angio­gen­e­sis, with a result­ing vol­u­met­ric decrease in the neu­ro­genic hip­pocam­pal den­tate gyrus (DG) region, although con­cur­rent changes in these para­me­ters are not well stud­ied. Here we assessed whole autop­sy hip­pocampi from healthy human indi­vid­u­als rang­ing from 14 to 79 years of age. We found sim­i­lar num­bers of inter­me­di­ate neur­al prog­en­i­tors and thou­sands of imma­ture neu­rons in the DG, com­pa­ra­ble num­bers of glia and mature gran­ule neu­rons, and equiv­a­lent DG vol­ume across ages. Nev­er­the­less, old­er indi­vid­u­als have less angio­gen­e­sis and neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty and a small­er qui­es­cent prog­en­i­tor pool in ante­ri­or-mid DG, with no changes in pos­te­ri­or DG. Thus, healthy old­er sub­jects with­out cog­ni­tive impair­ment, neu­ropsy­chi­atric dis­ease, or treat­ment dis­play pre­served neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis. It is pos­si­ble that ongo­ing hip­pocam­pal neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis sus­tains human-spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive func­tion through­out life and that declines may be linked to com­pro­mised cog­ni­tive-emo­tion­al resilience.

The Study in Context:

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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