The discovery of stem cells in the adult brain has generated a great deal of excitement in the neurosciences. Thousands of new cells are produced each day in a healthy hippocampus, a key brain area for learning and memory. However, soon after the cells are born, many of them die unless they are exposed to a learning experience. Thus, new neurons in the adult are rescued from death by learning. With this award, a number of important questions about the relationship between learning and neurogenesis will be answered: What do new neurons do once they are rescued from death? Are they used for memory or for acquiring new information? Are new cells retained with each new learning experience and if so, do they then contribute to learning in the future? Also, do the absolute numbers that are born relate to the numbers kept alive by learning? And finally, what physiological mechanisms and brain rhythms keep them alive? To answer these questions, behavioral, electrophysiological, molecular and biochemical techniques will be used. These studies are important because they will identify the critical features of learning that keep new neurons alive and in turn how those new neurons then contribute to optimal learning in the future. The discovery of neurogenesis has transformed the way we think about the adult brain and generated much interest in the public, especially educators of children and young adults. These findings will be disseminated to the public with writings in lay magazines (i.e. Shors, Scientific American, 2009) and public presentations (i.e. Quark Park, a public art installation about science). The project will train postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students in this new field of research which intersects biology, psychology, physiology, as well as biomedical and stem cell engineering.
|Effective start/end date||9/1/09 → 8/31/12|
- National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))