Neuroscience. What the bomb said about the brain.
Science. 2013 Jun 7;340(6137):1180-1.
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These observations clearly determine that the extent of hippocampal neurogenesis is comparable in humans and rodents, and provide profound evidence for the critical role of neurogenesis in the human dentate gyrus. Several noteworthy unknowns in this study would be interesting to explore. One aspect is information about the participants in the study: their lifestyle, level of education, level of exercise, etc. Neurogenesis plays a major role in adaptation to novel environments and is context dependent. In addition, neurogenesis is an inducible set of processes, and more new neurons might be recruited in individuals that engage in activities that require neurogenesis. Indeed, the authors indicate a high variability in the data obtained from participants in the study, which might be attributed to lifestyle and environmental parameters.
Another aspect is related to the role of neurogenesis in cognitive function and dysfunction. The study suggests only a steady moderate decline in neurogenesis with aging, suggesting that in contrast to previous assumptions, neurogenesis may play a significant role during aging in humans. Nevertheless, the extent of decline in neurogenesis that manifests in cognitive deficits is unknown. In addition, it is unknown if neurogenesis is as inducible in the old brain as in the young.
Lastly, Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging. Thus, in the context of pathological aging, the question arises whether the rate of age-dependent decline in neurogenesis is faster in individuals with cognitive impairments and if individuals exhibiting a greater decline in neurogenesis are more susceptible to the development of cognitive deficits. More studies are required to answer these questions.