Count Your Brain Cells

“You can’t teach an old dog…”—how does that go?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

As you age, certain motor functions begin to slow down. You don’t move as fast as you used to, and you become a tad forgetful. Based on past studies, most scientists believe that people stop making brain cells as they age. But do they?

Maura Boldrini and her team at Columbia University wanted to know.

They counted the number of new cells in the brains of the recently deceased. The subjects had died at different ages, both old and young. Surprising discovery? Older people had JUST as many new brain cells as the younger ones!

Why such different findings from past studies? The brains in Boldrini’s lab were all from HEALTHY people. Previous studies were mostly on aging patients with Alzheimer’s or other diseases. Boldrini thinks that unhealthy patients had less brain cells because of DISEASE. Not age! Studying healthy brains shows us how normal brains age. And it could help us understand diseased brains better!

Interesting research, but where did I leave my car keys?