A new study on mice has revealed that electrodes inserted into certain parts of the brain could fuel the growth of new neurons that could help in memory formation.
The researchers showed that artificially created neurons can be fully functional, and are not just useless growths.
Thus, the finding could lead to treatment against Alzheimer's disease and other memory-degeneration disorders.
"I'm hoping to help people who have difficulty remembering things," Nature magazine quoted Scellig Stone, a neurosurgery resident and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, as saying.
In the study, Stone electrically stimulated part of the limbic system in the brains of mice for an hour, and found that by 3-5 days the rodent brains produced doubled the everyday production of new neurons in mice.
During this time of high neuron growth, the team injected the mice with iododeoxyuridine to label the newly formed cells.
Six weeks after the stimulation, the mice were trained to find a platform hidden underwater in a swimming tank.
After making sure that the mice had learnt the task, the researchers examined their brains, looking for a protein called Fos-that is produced only by active cells, and takes around 90 minutes to form.
Thus, the team could time their examination to pinpoint neurons that had been used explicitly in the memory task.
The researchers found that the new neurons had the same level of Fos and were therefore just as active as other, older neurons.
"These new neurons aren't just sitting around doing nothing," said Stone.
However, the researchers are hoping that the growth of new, functional neurons in mice or people with dementia or other brain degenerative problems would help them.
However, a co-author said that there could also be complications.
"You might erase old memories, but become capable of making more memories," explained the author.
"Now we can really see what neurogenesis is doing. The reason why it's so exciting is it's potentially a neuro-regenerative or restorative therapy," said Stone.
A presentation on the study's findings was recently made at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience in Vancouver, Canada.