Adult brains produce new cells in previously undiscovered area

August 15, 2017, University of Queensland
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A University of Queensland discovery may lead to new treatments for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). UQ Queensland Brain Institute scientists have discovered that new brain cells are produced in the adult amygdala, a region of the brain important for processing emotional memories.

Disrupted connections in the amygdala, an ancient part of the , are linked to anxiety disorders such as PTSD.

Queensland Brain Institute director Professor Pankaj Sah said the research marked a major shift in understanding the brain's ability to adapt and regenerate.

"While it was previously known that new neurons are produced in the , excitingly this is the first time that new cells have been discovered in the amygdala," Professor Sah said.

"Our discovery has enormous implications for understanding the amygdala's role in regulating fear and fearful memories."

Researcher Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri said the amygdala played a key role in fear learning—the process by which we associate a stimulus with a frightening event.

"Fear learning leads to the classic flight or fight response—increased heart rate, dry mouth, sweaty palms—but the amygdala also plays a role in producing feelings of dread and despair, in the case of phobias or PTSD, for example," Dr Jhaveri said.

"Finding ways of stimulating the production of new brain cells in the amygdala could give us new avenues for treating disorders of fear processing, which include anxiety, PTSD and depression."

Previously new brain cells in were only known to be produced in the hippocampus, a brain region important for spatial learning and memory.

The discovery of that process, called neurogenesis, was made by Queensland Brain Institute founding director Professor Perry Bartlett, who was also involved in the latest research.

"Professor Bartlett's discovery overturned the belief at the time that the adult brain was fixed and unable to change," Professor Sah said. "We have now found stem in the amygdala in adult mice, which suggests that neurogenesis occurs in both the hippocampus and the amygdala. "The deepens our understanding of brain plasticity and provides the framework for understanding the functional contribution of new neurons in the ," Professor Sah said.

The research, led by Professor Sah, Professor Bartlett and Dr Jhaveri, is published in Molecular Psychiatry.

Explore further: PTSD may be physical and not only psychological

Related Stories

PTSD may be physical and not only psychological

July 11, 2017
The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a study released ...

Study solves mystery of memory and mood

June 1, 2015
Scientists are one step closer to understanding how the brain regulates memory and mood, thanks to the discovery of two distinct types of stem cells.

Study expands understanding of how the brain encodes fear memory

May 15, 2017
Research published by scientists at the University of California, Riverside on "fear memory" could lead to the development of therapies that reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Scientists identify brain circuit that drives pleasure-inducing behavior

March 22, 2017
Scientists have long believed that the central amygdala, a structure located deep within the brain, is linked with fear and responses to unpleasant events.

Horror movie scenes help team identify key brain circuits for processing fear

February 8, 2017
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have identified a key neural pathway in humans that explains how the brain processes feelings of fear and anxiety, a finding that could help scientists unlock new ways to ...

Weakening communication between two parts of the brain in mice reduced their fear levels

April 10, 2017
Erasing unwanted memories is still the stuff of science fiction, but Weizmann Institute scientists have now managed to erase one type of memory in mice. In a study reported in Nature Neuroscience, they succeeded in shutting ...

Recommended for you

Parents' brain activity 'echoes' their infant's brain activity when they play together

December 13, 2018
When infants are playing with objects, their early attempts to pay attention to things are accompanied by bursts of high-frequency activity in their brain. But what happens when parents play together with them? New research, ...

Researchers discover abundant source for neuronal cells

December 13, 2018
USC researchers seeking a way to study genetic activity associated with psychiatric disorders have discovered an abundant source of human cells—the nose.

In the developing brain, scientists find roots of neuropsychiatric diseases

December 13, 2018
The most comprehensive genomic analysis of the human brain ever undertaken has revealed new insights into the changes it undergoes through development, how it varies among individuals, and the roots of neuropsychiatric illnesses ...

Researchers find the cause of and cure for brain injury associated with gut condition

December 13, 2018
Using a mouse model of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)—a potentially fatal condition that causes a premature infant's gut to suddenly die—researchers at Johns Hopkins say they have uncovered the molecular causes of the ...

How the brain tells you to scratch that itch

December 13, 2018
It's a maddening cycle that has affected us all: it starts with an itch that triggers scratching, but scratching only makes the itchiness worse. Now, researchers have revealed the brain mechanism driving this uncontrollable ...

Researchers identify pathway that drives sustained pain following injury

December 13, 2018
A toddler puts her hand on a hot stove and swiftly withdraws it. Alas, it's too late—the child's finger has sustained a minor burn. To soothe the pain, she puts the burned finger in her mouth.

0 comments

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.