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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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