For years, scientists largely believed that the production of new brain cells in areas responsible for memory, emotion, and learning stopped after adolescence. This was not a comforting thought, and it lead to ideas that adults, as they age, were more susceptible to emotional instability, faulty memory, and poor ability to learn.
But now, the authors of a recent study report that new brain cells (neurons) continue to be produced in human adults and don’t decline with age. This discovery is good news for adults, and may help researchers find new ways to manage memory disorders and psychiatric challenges.
Making New Brain Cells
According to the study’s first author, Maura Boldrini from Columbia University in New York, the presence of new brain cells and immature cells that can develop into mature ones in older adults “could mean that we need these neurons for our complex learning abilities and cognitive-behavioral responses to emotions.”
The study itself involved 28 males and females between the ages of 14 and 79 who were healthy before their deaths. Samples of the hippocampus (the area of the brain responsible for memory, emotions, and motivation) were collected within hours of their deaths and examined for signs of new neurons, including the formation of new blood vessels and the number of different cells in various stages of development.