So an Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks !

10 March 2002


A few years ago scientists were very excited when they unexpectedly discovered new nerve cells being born in the brains of adult people and animals, because up until then, most people believed that new nerve cells were produced only in embryos and very young babies. But, although researchers could detect the newly born cells, they couldn't prove that the cells wired themselves up with other nerve cells so that they could send and receive electrical signals, or that they actually survived for a long enough time to be useful. This week, however, scientists studying the birth of new cells in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that is involved in laying down memories, have found that the new nerve cells do indeed survive and can transmit nerve impulses. Although the researchers don't yet know why the brain makes these new cells, they think that they could be intended to replace dead or dying nerve cells as we age. Alternatively they could allow our brains to adapt and learn new thingsby making new connections so quite literally permitting an old dog to learn new tricks.


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