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From PsychCentral:
Nerve cell production in the human brain is directly related to learning and memory, according to a new study from the University of Florida. The findings, published online and in an upcoming print issue of the journal Brain, are the first to show such a link in humans.

Scientists have long observed that new nerve cells generate in the hippocampus, a memory-related area of the brain. Animal studies have shown that an increase in nerve cell production in this area improves memory, while a disruption of new nerve cell generation results in memory loss.

To investigate if these findings applied to humans, UF researchers, in association with colleagues in Germany, studied 23 epileptic patients with differing degrees of associated memory loss. They recorded and evaluated the patients’ memory functions and also studied their hippocampus stem cells removed during epilepsy surgery. Researchers were able to observe if and how these stem cells multiplied and changed into other types of nerve cells.

In patients with normal memory scores, stem cells were able to proliferate in laboratory cultures. However, the stem cells of patients with low memory scores could not generate new cells. These findings demonstrate a strong correlation between the patient’s memory and the ability to generate new cells.

“The study gives us insights on how to approach the problem of cognitive aging and age-related memory loss, with the hope of developing therapies that can improve cognitive health in the aging,” said Dr. J. Lee Dockery, a trustee of the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

Read the entire article.

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