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New nerve cells — even in old age :)

Posted Jun 12 2010 12:00am

Guess what? You can teach an old dog new tricks.

Recent research published from the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology in Freiburg shows that “neuronal stem cells exist in the hippocampus – a region of the brain that plays a central role in learning and memory functions – that can produce new nerve cells throughout life.”  These stem cells create “new neurons. … they divide continuously and create new neurons in young animals, [and] a large proportion of the cells in older animals persist in a state of dormancy. However, the production of new cells can be reactivated, for example, through physical activity” which gives hope to the rest of us who are no longer young animals, but could still use some regeneration.

This research is particularly encouraging for me, because it reinforces what I have read in many other places, and I have also experienced in my own life. Exercise helps my injured brain. It helps me wake up in the morning, it helps me chill out my anxiety and agitation, it helps me regulate my moods, it helps me learn. It just helps me. All across the board. And now research is being published that shows not only what it’s capable of doing (like Kramer’s and Ratey’s and others’ work), but how.

The insight into the regeneration of brain cells in the hippocampus is particularly huge for me, as the hippocampus is one area where my neuropsych says I am having some issues. I’ll need to check with them when we meet again, to get more details and insight, but for now, I’ll just bask in the glow of this newly published research which gives me yet one more reason to hope for the future of myself, and countless other individuals who have sustained concussion and TBIs, whether on the field of battle, on the highways, or in the course of their everyday lives.

The use of neuronal brain stem cells in the treatment of brain injuries or degenerative diseases like Alzheimers may also be possible one day,” hopes Verdon Taylor, one of the authors of the study. Personally, I’d say it’s already possible. In my case and others’  it’s already happening.

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