It has been presumed for many years now that the brain is unable to produce new cells, but new research performed at Princeton University has found this may not be the case.
The research found how the region of the brain known as the hippocampus was capable of producing new cells. So far the new cells have been detected at 1000 to 3000 per day in rats and mice.
The research, carried out by Elizabeth Gould was centred around counteracting depression in patients. Depression is often caused by high stress levels, which in turn reduces the production of new brain cells. Medication such as Prozac was found to increase seratonin levels in the brain, preventing seratonin from being reabsorbed by the cells that release it. Prozac was found to increase the production of brain cells in the hippocampus of rats. This was supported by research at Yale University which found that patients receiving electro-shock therapy also increased cell production.
The research team found that patients suffering from depression had smaller hippocampal volumes than healthy people. They also found that patients who had temporal lobe epilepsy had a massive loss of cells around the hippocampus.
The conclusion of the research was that depression may be triggered if the hippocampus stopped producing enough new cells. The theory also led to remarks about how exercise may have an anti-depressant effect. It was found that by mice which were exercised frequently increased the cell production in the hippocampus.