Hi everyone! Rim here, so sorry for the late update guys! World Cup fever! Priorities priorities.
We were introduced to neurogenesis a couple of blogs ago. The birth of neurons in the adult brain has opened the floodgates to a broad range of topics for researchers. One of the most dominant types, are those who study of learning and memory. Now memory and learning, my friends, is a convoluted concept in my opinion. Its just plain perplexing. What we learn, how we learn and when we learn are important. Then comes into play what type of memory it is, how it is utilized and when it is utilized..Complicated? Just a tad. To further “simplify” matters, literature has been delving into the role of all newly born cells in the brain. Fun fact: not all newly born cells in the brain are neurons. Therefore not all proliferating and migrating cells are neurons. Hence, the plot thickens.More on this topic in upcoming blog posts.
Back to our learning/memory/neurogenesis issue, remember that “sea horse” looking area of the brain, the hippocampus? Well, this area has been attributed to being vital for certain types of memory, such as episodic and spatial memory. A particularly special area of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus.This is the area where the magic happens. The dentate gyrus is considered to be the “gateway” of information to the hippocampus. The head honcho if you will. The integration of new neurons into the hippocampus and the projections of the dentate gyrus are currently viewed as being necessary aides to learning and memory. A lot of research has gone into looking at exactly where these neurons are born, where they migrate, how they grow into mature neurons and finally how they integrate within the already established connections.
The actual rate of neurogenesis has been linked to a variety of environmental factors that an animal can be put through. For example, in rodent models, research has shown that voluntary wheel running has been correlated with increased neurogenesis. Voluntary physical activity has been reported to play a significant role in promoting the health of newly born cells, increasing their survival and improving the overall spatial learning and memory of the animal. Actually, reports have shown that voluntary physical activity has significantly improved performance of rats in learning and memory tasks (ie. The dreaded Morris water maze). Another moderator of the rate of neurogensis is hippocampus-dependent learning. Hippocampus-dependent learning in contrast to hippocampus –independent learning has shown to increase the birth of new cells in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.
Believe it or not there are a variety of additional factors that play a part in the soap opera of learning and memory. They range from age, to gender to environmental stimuli, to stress coping and nutritional intake. So where does that leave us? With the flourishing of the learning and memory research, there are an abundance of answers/clarifications, but as per usual in science, an abundance of questions yet to be answered.
Next post: Neurogenesis & Stress
More importantly, who are you cheering for in the World Cup?
With that, I bid you Adéu
Deng, W., Aimone, J., & Gage, F. (2010). New neurons and new memories: how does adult hippocampal neurogenesis affect learning and memory? Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 11 (5), 339-350 DOI: 10.1038/nrn2822