Updated on 13 October 2014
Making “scents” of new cells in the brain’s odor-processing area, image courtesy: Dr Belluscio Lab, NINDS
Singapore: Neurons in the brain are believed to be born only during the early development period and could not be replenished. However, recently, scientists at National Institutes of Health (NIH) have discovered cells with the ability to divide and turn into new neurons in specific brain regions.
Scientists reported that newly formed brain cells in the mouse olfactory system, the area that processes smells, play a critical role in maintaining proper connections. The results were published in Journal of Neuroscience.
"This is a surprising new role for brain stem cells and changes the way we view them," said Dr Leonardo Belluscio, scientist at NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and lead author of the study.
The olfactory bulb is located in the front of the brain and receives information directly from the nose about odors in the environment. Neurons in the olfactory bulb sort that information and relay the signals to the rest of the brain, at which point we become aware of the smells we are experiencing. Olfactory loss is often an early symptom in a variety of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
In a process known as neurogenesis, adult-born neuroprogenitor cells are generated in the subventricular zone deep in the brain and migrate to the olfactory bulb where they assume their final positions. Once in place, they form connections with existing cells and are incorporated into the circuitry.