Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nuclear testing from the 1960s helps scientist determine whether adult brains generate new neurons

Date:
June 6, 2013
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
The birth of new neurons in the adult brain sharpens memory in rodents, but whether the same holds true for humans has long been debated. A new study reveals that a significant number of new neurons in the hippocampus -- a brain region crucial for memory and learning -- are generated in adult humans. The researchers used a unique strategy based on the amount of carbon-14 found in humans as a result of above-ground nuclear testing more than half a century ago.

The birth of new neurons in the adult brain sharpens memory in rodents, but whether the same holds true for humans has long been debated. A study published by Cell Press June 6th in the journal Cell reveals that a significant number of new neurons in the hippocampus -- a brain region crucial for memory and learning -- are generated in adult humans. The researchers used a unique strategy based on the amount of carbon-14 found in humans as a result of above-ground nuclear testing more than half a century ago. The findings suggest that new neurons are born daily in the human hippocampus, offering the tantalizing possibility that they may support cognitive functions in adulthood.
Credit: Cell, Spalding et al.

The birth of new neurons in the adult brain sharpens memory in rodents, but whether the same holds true for humans has long been debated. A study published by Cell Press June 6th in the journal Cell reveals that a significant number of new neurons in the hippocampus -- a brain region crucial for memory and learning -- are generated in adult humans.

The researchers used a unique strategy based on the amount of carbon-14 found in humans as a result of above-ground nuclear testing more than half a century ago. The findings suggest that new neurons are born daily in the human hippocampus, offering the tantalizing possibility that they may support cognitive functions in adulthood.

"It was thought for a long time that we are born with a certain number of neurons, and that it is not possible to get new neurons after birth," says senior study author Jonas Frisén of the Karolinska Institute. "We provide the first evidence that there is substantial neurogenesis in the human hippocampus throughout life, suggesting that the new neurons may contribute to human brain function."

Due to technical limitations, until now it was not possible to quantify the amount of neurogenesis in humans. To overcome this hurdle, Frisén and his team developed an innovative method for dating the birth of neurons. This strategy takes advantage of the elevated atmospheric levels of carbon-14, a radioactive isotope of carbon, caused by above-ground nuclear bomb testing more than 50 years ago. Since the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty, atmospheric levels of "heavy" carbon-14 have declined at a known rate. When we eat plants or animal products, we absorb both normal and heavy carbon at the atmospheric ratios present at that time, and the exact atmospheric concentration at any point in time is stamped into DNA every time a new neuron is born. Thus, neurons can be "carbon dated" in a similar way to that used by archeologists.

By measuring the carbon-14 concentration in DNA from hippocampal neurons of deceased humans, the researchers found that more than one-third of these cells are regularly renewed throughout life. About 1,400 new neurons are added each day during adulthood, and this rate declines only modestly with age.

Because hippocampal neurogenesis occurs to a similar extent in adult humans and adult mice, it could also play an important role in human cognition and psychiatric disease. "It has long been suspected that depression is related to reduced hippocampal neurogenesis, and our findings suggest that new and more effective antidepressants could potentially be developed to target this process," Frisén says.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kirsty L. Spalding, Olaf Bergmann, Kanar Alkass, Samuel Bernard, Mehran Salehpour, Hagen B. Huttner, Emil Boström, Isabelle Westerlund, Céline Vial, Bruce A. Buchholz, Göran Possnert, Deborah C. Mash, Henrik Druid, Jonas Frisén. Dynamics of Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Adult Humans. Cell, 2013; 153 (6): 1219 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.002

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "Nuclear testing from the 1960s helps scientist determine whether adult brains generate new neurons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130606140614.htm>.
Cell Press. (2013, June 6). Nuclear testing from the 1960s helps scientist determine whether adult brains generate new neurons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130606140614.htm
Cell Press. "Nuclear testing from the 1960s helps scientist determine whether adult brains generate new neurons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130606140614.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

Two US Ebola Patients Leave Hospital Free of the Disease

AFP (Aug. 21, 2014) — Two American missionaries who were sickened with Ebola while working in Liberia and were treated with an experimental drug are doing better and have left the hospital, doctors say on August 21, 2014. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

American Ebola Patients Released: What Cured Them?

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — It's unclear whether the American Ebola patients' recoveries can be attributed to an experimental drug or early detection and good medical care. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins