New learning and memory neurons uncovered

April 11, 2013
Image: PLoS Biology via Wikipedia

(Medical Xpress)—A University of Queensland study has identified precisely when new neurons become important for learning.

Lead researcher Dr Jana Vukovic from UQ's Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) said the study highlighted the importance of new neuron development.

"New neurons are continually produced in the brain, passing through a number of developmental stages before becoming fully mature," Dr Vukovic said.

"Using a genetic technique to delete immature neurons in animal models, we found they had great difficulty learning a new spatial task.

"There are ways to encourage the production of new neurons – including – to improve learning.

"The new neurons appear particularly important for the brain to detect subtle but critical differences in the environment that can impact on the individual."

The study, performed in QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett's laboratory, also demonstrates that immature neurons, born in a region of the brain known as the , are required for learning but not for the retrieval of past memories.

"On the other hand, if the animals needed to remember a task they had already mastered in the past, before these immature neurons were deleted, their ability to perform the task was the same – so, they've remembered the task they learned earlier," Dr Vukovic said.

This research allows for better understanding of the processes underlying learning and .

The paper, "Immature double cortin-positive hippocampal neurons are important for learning but not for remembering", is online in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Explore further: Researchers move closer to delaying dementia

Related Stories

Learning and memory: The role of neo-neurons revealed

May 22, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS have recently identified in mice the role played by neo-neurons formed in the adult brain. By using selective stimulation the researchers were able to show ...

Recommended for you

How even our brains get 'slacker' as we age

October 24, 2016

New research from Newcastle University, UK, in collaboration with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, investigated the way the human brain folds and how this 'cortical folding' changes with age.

How lying takes our brains down a 'slippery slope'

October 24, 2016

Telling small lies desensitises our brains to the associated negative emotions and may encourage us to tell bigger lies in future, reveals new UCL research funded by Wellcome and the Center for Advanced Hindsight.

Robotic tutors for primary school children

October 24, 2016

The use of robotic tutors in primary school classrooms is one step closer according to research recently published in the open access journal Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience.

Mouse decision-making more complex than once thought

October 24, 2016

Working with dot-counting mice running through a virtual-reality maze, scientists from Harvard Medical School have found that in order to navigate space rodent brains rely on a cascade of neural signals that culminate in ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.