Researchers use nuclear fallout to prove the brain continually makes neurons

Autore: ExtremeTech

In the years between 1955 and 1963, the US and the Soviet Union engaged in extensive nuclear arms testing. A side effect of this testing was a sharp spike in the concentration of carbon-14 in the atmosphere. Since that time levels have declined, largely due to uptake by plants, which incorporate the carbon in the form of CO2 after it has reacted with oxygen. An ingenious new study published in Cell, has taken advantage of this convenient carbon-14 pulse to reveal that humans continue to make new neurons throughout their entire lives.

The key to understanding how the researches were able to prove this is the simple fact that that when we eat these plants (or the animals we eat do so), we incorporate the carbon-14 into our bodies. We are therefore, in a sense, a mirror of what is going on the atmosphere. If cells in the brain multiply through cell division, they integrate some of this carbon-14 into a new copy of the DNA synthesized for each daughter cell. While it has been known for some time that many mammals — particularly shorter-lived mice and rats — make new neurons throughout their lives, proving that humans also do has been very difficult.

Using autopsy tissue from the Swedish National Department of Forensic science, the researchers were able to show that particular areas of brain, namely the hippocampus, manufacture up to 700 new neurons each day. This corresponds to an annual turnover of around 1.75 percent in that cell population. That rate is maintained with only a slight drop-off through the course of life.

Usually we associate aging with a one-way ratchet towards doom — but 700 new processors a day in a key region of the brain is something we can work with.

New Neurons

The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus is a region of high convergence within the brain. Information from various regions funnels through this area and is filtered in ways we are just beginning to understand. Efforts to assign specific functions, like pattern-matching and memory formation, have been made but the mechanisms behind them are still unknown.

These findings show that a significant portion of these neurons are subject to regular replacement, which has broad implications for designing new kinds of biological and machine-based implants.

The Cell paper points to a few possibly confounding issues in the researchers’ methods, but suggests they are of little consequence to the main result. One concern is that ongoing DNA repair mechanisms regularly incorporate new carbon into the genetic structure as damaged pieces are replaced. Another natural source of corruption might be due to fusion from cells of various lineages — even from viruses — in the body that sometimes gain access to the brain. The authors argue that these occasional inputs would be virtually unnoticed against the larger set of copied DNA in a significant number of our cells.

Tracing the flow of specific atoms or molecules through various natural cycles has proven to be a powerful mechanism for gaining unique insight into seemingly detached worlds. In addition to establishing a powerful new way to probe the mysteries of the brain, this new study ends the debate on some important biological questions that have perplexed brain researchers for some time.

Now read: Struggling to get a GPS lock on your smartphone? Blame nuclear testing

Research paper: Dynamics of Hippocampal Neurogenesis in Adult Humans

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7 thoughts on “Researchers use nuclear fallout to prove the brain continually makes neurons

  1. andrebbe bene qualunque sito e/o programma, purchè non sia a pagamento =P

    non ho il ds per brain training e inoltre gli emulatori non funzionano bene

  2. Leggendo la cartella clinica (in inglese) di un reduce del Vietnam che era sopravvissuto dopo avere riportto lesioni su quasi tutto il corpo a causa dello scoppio di una granata,ho letto il sintomo “extremely reduced brain mass”,cioè alla lettera “massa cerebrale estremamente ridotta”,questo però dopo circa venti giorni di ospedalizzazione.Vi risulta che sia possibile una cosa del genere?

  3. o ho già visto anche One Outs, Akagi e Code Geass
    Non cerco cose tipo Mushishi o Monster ma ragionamenti veri e propri!

    Possibilmente non manga, ma nel caso accetto anche questi.
    Ho letto Liar Game, MPD Psycho e Lost Brain

  4. Scarica gratuitamente il Nintendo DSi Browser per navigare wireless nel web dal tuo Nintendo DSi. Annota memo veloci, o mostra il tuo lato creativo con Flipnote Studio. Potrai addirittura scaricare le mappe del transporto pubblico di alcune delle maggiori città Europee. Oppure preferisci un gioco più veloce, giusto per passare il tempo? Dall’estro digitale della serie Art Style, alle pause di Brain Training del Dr. Kawashima, troverai sempre qualcosa di nuovo e divertente nel Nintendo DSi Shop.

  5. Cityville, Farmville, hotel, restaurant e cagàte simili tutte uguali no..ma qualche gioco carino e divertente come Brain Buddies, Bowling Buddies, Uno e anche giochi vecchi tipo nome, cose e città, ma che siano diversi, carini e non tutti uguali come i primi che ho citato..anche se non sono molto famosi.

    PS: Non mi dite the sims social.

    10 punti al migliore.

  6. Salve a tutti! Vorrei sapere come funziona la restituzione dei videogiochi per nintendo ds a Gamestop, io vorrei restituire due giochi: More Brain Training e I Simpson, per comprare un gioco che costa 40 euro.
    Quello che voglio sapere è quanto mi farebbero pagare il gioco che voglio comprare se restituisco questi due giochi (se non bastano questi due posso anche aggiungercene anche un altro).
    10 punti a chi mi sa rispondere! :-)))))))))

  7. Parlo di Brain che ormai è proprio fuori di testa ma anche di Franca67 e di tante altre persone deliranti. Dopo aver insultato gratuitamente gli altri ci si sente meglio chissà

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