Previous studies concluded that, after the adolescence, the human brain stops generating new neural cells. But that’s not accurate since more recent studies showed that the process through which neurons form, known as neurogenesis, never halts. More recent research revealed that the brain produces new neural cells throughout the whole life.
The new study, conducted by the researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, unveiled that brain cells even form at 90 years of age and also in case of patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. However, the researchers questioned how the production of new neurons late in life influences what’s already known about cognitive impairment.
“We found that there was active neurogenesis in the hippocampus of older adults well into their 90s. The interesting thing is that we also saw some new neurons in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment,” said Orly Lazarov, the leading author of the study in a statement.
The brain generates new neural cells throughout the whole life
The scientists analyzed postmortem brains of individuals aged between 79 and 99, out of which, some died of neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers focused on studying two types of markers, namely, neuroblasts and immature neurons. As the scientists reported, healthy people’s brain promotes the production of both of the before-mentioned neural cells.
On the other hand, those with neurodegenerative diseases presented lower amount of both neuroblasts and immature neurons. However, both of those neural cells were present in the analyzed brains, suggesting that neurogenesis is still active late in life.
“In brains from people with no cognitive decline who scored well on tests of cognitive function, these people tended to have higher levels of new neural development at the time of their death, regardless of their level of pathology. The mix of the effects of pathology and neurogenesis is complex, and we don’t understand exactly how the two interconnect, but there is clearly a lot of variation from individual to individual,” Orly Lazarov added.