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