The survival of newly formed brain cells in the adult mouse depends on the input activity they receive, according to a study published online in Nature this week. It suggests that new neurons in an area of the mammalian brain thought to be involved in learning and memory compete for survival through the activity of neurotransmitter receptors on their surface.
Fred Gage and colleagues studied newly formed neurons in a region known as the dentate gyrus. Using an original technical development, they were able to show that new neurons are much less likely to survive if they do not possess a particular receptor called NMDAR - the N-methyl-d-aspartate-type glutamate receptor. This receptor mediates excitatory signals from connected neurons, without which the researchers believe new neurons do not survive.
The authors report that the specific, activity-dependent establishment of new neuronal circuits occurs during a crucial period soon after the new neurons are 'born', and propose that it may enable these brain cells to play an important part in learning and memory.
Fred H gage (The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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