Neuroscientists at the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI), The University of Queensland have discovered a key component of the process that regulates memory formation.
The research was led by QBI Director Professor Perry Bartlett, who said that the discovery has, for the first time, explained how new nerve cells form in an area of the brain associated with learning and memory, called hippocampus, which deteriorates in people with stroke and dementia.
stroke and dementia
"The hippocampus is the region of the brain involved in important brain functions such as learning and memory and loss of neuronal production in the hippocampus is associated with a range of neurodegenerative conditions, and is particularly evident in ageing dementia." said Professor Bartlett.
He added: "Surprisingly, however, studies have so far failed to identify a resident stem cell population in the hippocampus that's capable of providing the renewable source of these essential nerve cells."
The researchers have not only identified the resident stem cell in the hippocampus and, they have made a more important discovery that it can be activated to produce new neurons.
Walker said that an understanding of the activation process could lead to the development of therapeutics that may initiate the production of new neurons and reverse or prevent the cognitive decline linked with ageing dementia.
"These significant advances in determining the molecular regulation of nerve production will also have a major impact on our understanding of more complex areas such as behaviour, cognition, neurological disease and mental illness," she said.
The research has featured on the front cover of the latest issue of Journal of Neuroscience (May 14).