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

New insights on how cocaine changes the brain

November 25, 2015

The burst of energy and hyperactivity that comes with a cocaine high is a rather accurate reflection of what's going on in the brain of its users, finds a study published November 25 in Cell Reports. Through experiments conducted ...

Can physical exercise enhance long-term memory?

November 25, 2015

Exercise can enhance the development of new brain cells in the adult brain, a process called adult neurogenesis. These newborn brain cells play an important role in learning and memory. A new study has determined that mice ...

Umbilical cells help eye's neurons connect

November 24, 2015

Cells isolated from human umbilical cord tissue have been shown to produce molecules that help retinal neurons from the eyes of rats grow, connect and survive, according to Duke University researchers working with Janssen ...

Brain connections predict how well you can pay attention

November 24, 2015

During a 1959 television appearance, Jack Kerouac was asked how long it took him to write his novel On The Road. His response – three weeks – amazed the interviewer and ignited an enduring myth that the book was composed ...


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.