Brain can compensate loss of new cells

Last Updated: Sun, Mar 20, 2011 08:50 hrs

Washington, March 20 (IANS) The brain is an amazingly adaptable organ that can restore critical functions linked with learning and memory even if its ability to make new cells is curtailed, researchers say.

These findings bring scientists a step closer to isolating the mechanisms by which the brain compensates for disruptions and reroutes neural (nerve cell) functioning which could open the way to treating cognitive impairments in humans.

'It's amazing how the brain is capable of reorganizing itself in this manner,' says Geoffrey Murphy, study co-author at the University of Michigan Molecular and Behavioural Neuroscience Institute, reports the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

'Right now, we're still figuring out exactly how the brain accomplishes all this at the molecular level, but it's sort of comforting to know that our brains are keeping track of all of this for us,' adds Murphy, according to a Michigan statement.

In previous research, scientists found that restricting cell division in a vital component of the brain in mice curtailed cellular mechanism linked with memory formation.

However, the disruption was only temporary and within six weeks, the brains were able to compensate for the disruption and restore plasticity, says study co-author Jack Parent.

After halting the ongoing growth of key brain cells in adult mice, researchers found the brain circuitry compensated for the disruption by enabling existing neurons to be more active.