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The Adult Brain Does Grow New Neurons After All, Study Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Scientific American: For decades, scientists have debated whether the birth of new neurons — called neurogenesis — was possible in an area of the brain that is responsible for learning, memory and mood regulation. A growing body of research suggested they could, but then a Nature paper last year raised doubts. Now, a new study published today in another of the Nature family of journals — Nature Medicine — tips the balance back toward “yes.” In light of the new study, “I would say that there is an overwhelming case for the neurogenesis throughout life in humans,” Jonas Frisen, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in an e-mail. Frisen, who was not involved in the new research, wrote a News and Views about the study in the current issue of Nature Medicine.

The researchers, from Spain, tested a variety of methods of preserving brain tissue from 58 newly deceased people. They found that different methods of preservation led to different conclusions about whether new neurons could develop in the adult and aging brain. Brain tissue has to be preserved within a few hours after death, and specific chemicals used to preserve the tissue, or the proteins that identify newly developing cells will be destroyed, said Maria Llorens-Martin, the paper’s senior author. Other researchers have missed the presence of these cells, because their brain tissue was not as precisely preserved, says Llorens-Martin, a neuroscientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain. Jenny Hsieh, a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio who was not involved in the new research, said the study provides a lesson for all scientists who rely on the generosity of brain donations. “If and when we go and look at something in human postmortem, we have to be very cautious about these technical issues.”


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