Ever since medical science started exploring the mysteries of the brain, the belief behind all researches has been that brain cells (neurons) do not regenerate like other cells. This belief implied that once the neurons mature the process of multiplication by division stops in the neurons. Once the neurons die, they are gone for good.
Medical science has lived with this understanding for more than the past 100 years. Recent discoveries of as near as 1998 and 2000 presented a new frontier that has the capability of changing the notions of researchers involved in the study of the brain.
Studies with brains of terminal cancer patients showed encouraging results. After death, these brains were examined by researchers to locate agents that attach to the DNA of new cells. It is during these studies that new cells, though in small numbers, were found in the hippocampus area of the brain.
Hippocampus is a complex neural seahorse-shaped structure that consists of grey matter. It is located on the floor of each lateral ventricle. It is also actively involved in motivation and emotion as part of the limbic system. The hippocampus plays a central role in the formation of memories, which is elemental for mental focus and concentration.
Recent studies involving monkeys, whose brain structures resemble the human brain, revealed a steady layer of stem cells over the ventricles deep within the brain. This layer of stem cells is understood to produce a steady stream of new neurons. This research meant that certain other brain cells are also capable of regenerating.
This was a startling discovery as never before had brains cells been known to re-grow in humans, apes and monkeys. Regeneration of brain cells had been observed earlier in some lower mammals but the brain of the primates was considered too complex to allow for regeneration. The previous results are now believed to be anomalous or confined to the ‘lower’ parts of the brain.
The most encouraging factor is this new addition of neurons located in the ‘high’ area of the brain, the cerebral cortex. This area is responsible for decision making, visual recognition and representation of 3D imagery.
Most people take brain health for granted and assume that they will have mental focus and concentration forever. They do not realize that the brain needs to be ‘fed’ just like the rest of the body. Vitamin B, C, and E are extremely necessary for the development of the brain. These nutrients also maintain healthy brain functioning. In most of the cases, normal diet is unable to provide all the nutrients required to maintain a healthy brain, necessitating supplementation with herbs and vitamins that promote mental focus. Youthful dissipation is one the major causes that lead to brain dysfunction in old age.
This discovery had the capacity to change the way doctors and surgeons look at restoring brain health. The development of the primate brain needs to be reassessed on the basis of this discovery. It could ultimately lead to developing new ways of repairing and restoring brain cells lost due to physical trauma or a disease or negligence.