Better understanding of need for new brain cells
Scientists know that the adult brain continues to create new nerve cells (neurons), but the reason why this happens is poorly understood. Now new research in rats and mice has brought this understanding one step closer. Researchers think that these neurons are involved with the removal of old memories so new ones can be created.
Memories starting out in the Hippocampus, a memory holding part of the brain, eventually get transferred to the neocortex area, for permanent storage. A team of researchers therefore wanted to test whether the new neurons are involved in the process of transferring old memories into storage.
The scientists studied mice with and without the ability to produce these new neurons. Using different stimulation chambers they assessed the memory the rats and mice retained in their brains over a period time.
They found that the mice with the new neurons were able to transfer memories to the neocortex faster, allowing a greater space for new memories to be created and stored.
Other researchers in the field of neurogenesis, feel that this is probably not the only role of the new neurons and suggest further research should be carried out.