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TAMPA, United States: People up to 79 years old can still generate new brain cells, US researchers reported Thursday, stoking the debate among scientists about whether our mental capacity stops growing or when.
The report by scientists at Columbia University in New York, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, goes directly against a different study published in Nature last month that found no evidence that new neurons are created after the age of 13 years.
Although none of the studies is considered the definitive last word, the research is closely watched as the world population ages and scientists try to better understand how the brain ages in search of clues to avoid dementia.
The focal point of the research is the hippocampus, the brain's center for learning and memory.
Specifically, researchers are looking for the foundations of new brain cells, including progenitor cells, or stem cells that will eventually become neurons.
The optional brain samples of 28 people who died suddenly between the ages of 14-79 years, the researchers observed "newly formed neurons and the state of the blood vessels throughout the human hippocampus shortly after death," said the Cell Stem Cell study.
"We found that older people have a similar ability to generate thousands of new hippocampal neurons from progenitor cells," said lead author Maura Boldrini, an badociate professor of neurobiology at Columbia University.
"We also find equivalent volumes of the Hippocampus through the ages."
The findings suggest that many older people may retain more of their cognitive and emotional abilities for longer than previously believed.
However, Boldrini warned that these new neurons may be less able to establish new connections due to the aging of blood vessels.
Animals such as mice and monkeys tend to lose the ability to generate new brain cells in the hippocampus with age.
How? The human brain reacts to aging has been controversial, although the general opinion is that the human brain continues to generate neurons until adulthood, and that this "neurogenesis" could one day help scientists to deal with brain degeneration related to age.

A study conducted last month by Arturo Alvarez-Buylla of the University of California at San Francisco found the opposite, however.
When observing brain samples from 59 adults and children, "we found no evidence of young neurons or dividing progenitors of new neurons" in the hippocampus of people older than 18 years, "he told AFP when the study was published.
They found some in children between birth and one year, "and some at seven and 13 years of age," he said.
That study was described by experts as "instructive," because it indicated that the human hippocampus it is generated largely during the development of the fetal brain.
Alvarez-Buylla's laboratory responded to the latest research in a statement, saying they were not convinced that Columbia University has found conclusive evidence of adult neurogenesis.
"Based on the representative images they present, the cells they call new neurons in the adult hippocampus are very different in form and appearance from what is considered It was a young neuron in other species, "said his response, published by the Los Angeles Times.
Boldrini, meanwhile, said his team used frozen brain samples with flash, while California researchers used samples that were chemically conserved in a process that may have obscured the detection of new neurons.


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