New learning and memory neurons uncovered

Neurons
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.

Related Stories

Ageing Brains Show Great Promise for Rejuvenation

Jun 24, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- UQ neuroscientists have, for the first time, been able to demonstrate that moderate exercise significantly increases the number of neural stem cells in the ageing brain.

New adult brain cells may be central to lifelong learning

May 23, 2007

The steady formation of new brain cells in adults may represent more than merely a patching up of aging brains, a new study has shown. The new adult brain cells may serve to give the adult brain the same kind of learning ...

Recommended for you

Neuroscientist develops brain vitality index

5 hours ago

Why is it we are happy to talk about our physical health, like exercise and diet but we are not comfortable talking about brain health? One measure of body health is the body mass index (BMI) but what single ...

New tools help neuroscientists analyze 'big data'

Jul 27, 2014

In an age of "big data," a single computer cannot always find the solution a user wants. Computational tasks must instead be distributed across a cluster of computers that analyze a massive data set together. ...

User comments