Thursday, 21 March, 2019


Researchers say older adults, youngsters grow same amount of new brain cells

The human brain continues to grow new neurons until death a new study shows The human brain continues to grow new neurons until death a new study shows Credit Getty Images Contributor
Patty Aguilar | 06 April, 2018, 23:19

Using autopsied brain samples from 28 people who died suddenly between the ages of 14 to 79, researchers looked at "newly formed neurons and the state of blood vessels within the entire human hippocampus soon after death", said the Cell Stem Cell study. This large range of ages gave the researchers a varied pool to pull from as they looked into neurogenesis and if it was truly happening as the subjects continued to age.

"We don't find fewer of the new neurons or fewer of the progenitors of new neurons, but we find that new neurons might make fewer connections", Boldrini said.

The authors note that a drop in plasticity might help explain why even healthy people can become more emotionally vulnerable as they age, but that the formation of new cells including neurons might help protect against cognitive or emotional decline. However, the older brains still numbered thousands of these cells and the number of neurons in an intermediate to an advanced stage of development was found to be the same across all age groups.

"It is possible that the changes we see in the older brains are related to some cognitive-emotional changes that occur with aging and exercise, diet, and medications may help, but future studies are needed to investigate these ideas".

The primary difference between older and younger brains identified in this new study was a decline in vascularization.

Looking at brain samples from 59 adults and children, "we found no evidence of young neurons or the dividing progenitors of new neurons" in the hippocampi of people older than 18, he told AFP when the study was published. This is a process called neurogenesis. These brains were also treated with different chemicals, and they were comparing them to each other.

"According to mice studies there are these pluripotent stem cells that are a pool of cells that don't normally do anything, they are quiescent, and then they can undergo division", said Boldrini, adding that some studies have suggested that we might be born with a finite pool of these "mother cells".

"Even though we make these new neurons, they might be less plastic, or maybe making fewer connections or migrating less", said Boldrini.

A study last month led by Arturo Alvarez-Buylla of the University of California in San Francisco found the opposite, however.

"We conclude that recruitment of young neurons to the primate hippocampus decreases rapidly during the first years of life, and that neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus does not continue, or is extremely rare, in adult humans", Sorrells et al. wrote. "It boils down to interpretation of equivocal cells which we took extra steps to characterise extensively and showed not to be new neurons as they first appeared".

The debate is surely set to continue, and it's not just an academic argument. Boldrini and the team used specialized computer software for the task.

Boldrini countered by claiming her team's study utilized better maintained and collected brain samples, as well as more effective analysis techniques. And they said they analyzed three to five sections of the hippocampus.

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