Research conducted at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory shows that neurons tend to grow in the adult brain. This proved that the earlier concept of adult brain lacks the capacity to grow as a false statement.
This has opened new avenues to research on the various techniques that could induce growth in the neurons of the adult brain. There are many approaches like the genetic or the sensory or by other ways that could lead to the increased growth of neurons.
Till date researchers have focused their research on making the long axis of the neuron to grow, but this focuses on the dendrites. A dendrite helps in the conduction of electrical stimulation inside the cell.
According to the research the dendrite's growth can be attributed largely to the extent of usage. Their growth is increased when the usage of the neuron is increased. Patient suffering from spinal cord impairments can be treated using dendritic growth therapy.
The researchers identified the growth of dendrites using a technique called two photon imaging. They followed the growth of neurons in the surface layers of the visual cortex in mice. So far researchers have given importance to the pyramidal neurons that contribute to firing signals this research is on all the types of neurons even the interneurons which impede the activity of cortical neurons.
The researchers constructed a 3D image of the entire neuron of the cortex of the mice. They then studied and measured the tips of the dendrites for many weeks to establish any change in the length.
The results were that, the image of the neuron looked like sprouting plants and the dendrites grow forward or retract when they come in contact with the neighbouring cells. 14% of the dendrite showed growth others showed growth only after weeks of no growth. The increase in length was from 7-90 microns.
When compared to the growth of the neurons during the development of the fetus the growth that was tracked is very slow and insignificant. But what is important is that the neurons are still capable of growth.
Till now it was thought that the adult brain lacks plasticity because no growth was detected in excitatory cells, but with this evidence in hand it can be proved that adult brain has the capacity to grow.
In conclusion it was suggested that the interneurons which is part of the inhibitory network has proved to be of great importance. It has showed us that adult brain has the capacity to grow. This finding will one day make it possible to grow cells to replace those damaged by spinal cord injuries.