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Memory Makeover

Getting rid of decrepit hippocampus neural stem cells improves spatial memory

30 January 2022

Memory Makeover

The hippocampus (pictured) is a critical part of the brain for forming memories. It’s also one of the few brain regions where new neurons are continually generated – a process called neurogenesis. But the pool of stem cells giving rise to these new neurons is susceptible to the ageing process just like the rest of the body, and scientists have found that, with age, an increasing number of hippocampal stem cells enter a state of dormancy and dysfunction called senescence. By treating older mice with a drug that kills these decrepit stem cells, the remaining healthy ones were able to produce more new neurons (coloured red). Moreover, this enhanced neurogenesis was coupled with improved spatial memory in the treated animals. If similar hippocampal rejuvenation is deemed safe and effective in humans, it may help curb cognitive decline in older people and enable them to hold on to their memories for longer.

Written by Ruth Williams

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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