The deletion of a protein required for the proliferation of adult neural stem cells in mice appears to affect spatial learning and memory. It did not, however affect functions such as fear conditioning and movement. The research, published online in Nature, suggests that the ability to generate new neural cells in the brain is necessary for selective brain functions.
The production of new neurons occurs in the adult brain, and appears to be stimulated by external stimuli such as learning, memory, exercise and stress. It is known that neural stem cells express a nuclear receptor known as TLX. In order to test the effect of deleting neural stem cells, Ronald Evans and colleagues create a mouse model without TLX and show that the mice have reduced stem cell proliferation as well as a marked decrease in spatial learning. The fact that other behaviours were not affected suggested that newly born neurons have a selective contribution to brain functions.
Ronald Evans (The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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