For the longest time, neuroscientists thought that human beings could not develop any new brain cells after birth. This is because most human brain cell birth (or neurogenesis), occurs before humans are born, during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Once a human is born, the brain’s development shifts its focus to creating new connections between its pre-existing cells or by pruning unnecessary ones. But in the 1960s, scientists found something remarkable: rats could generate new neurons after birth! It was not until the late 1990s, however, that evidence of neurogenesis was confirmed in adult mammals, including humans.
Present research suggests that human neurogenesis occurs in two areas of the brain, including the hippocampus. Among its many roles, the hippocampus is a major center for memory.
This discovery was ground-breaking because it offers new possibilities and hopes of repairing damaged tissue in neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and spinal cord injury. Some experimental success has even been found in animals!
Nevertheless, there is still much to discover about the potential uses of human neurogenesis.
These achievements are only the beginning of a longer journey to better understand the fundamental mechanisms behind how the brain develops over the entire human lifespan.
Fascinated by the read? To learn more about the story of neurogenesis, click on the link here.