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Brain cell regeneration has been discovered in a new location in human brains. The finding raises hopes that these cells could be used to help people recover after a stroke, or to treat other brain diseases.

For years it was unclear whether or not we could generate new brain cells during our lifetime, as the process – neurogenesis – had only been seen in animals. Instead, it was thought that humans, with our large and complex brains, are born with all the required neurons.

Then last year Jonas Frisén of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and his colleagues found that neurogenesis occurs in the hippocampi of the human brain. These structures are crucial for memory formation (Cell, DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.002)

Now they have found more new brain cells in a second location – golf-ball-sized structures called the striata. These seem to be involved in many different functions, including in learning and memory. These particular aspects, related as they are to the hippocampi, lead Frisén to speculate that these new brain cells may also be involved with learning. "New neurons may convey some sort of plasticity," he says, which might help people learn and adapt to new situations.

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