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Remember the “hard-wired” brain? Last spotted in a lecture room somewhere…

Granule neurons in the mouse dentate gyrus/WIKIMEDIA, AVILA, J.

From Ruth Williams at The Scientist:

Newly made cells in the brains of mice adopt a more complex morphology and connectivity when the animals encounter an unusual environment than if their experiences are run-of-the-mill. Researchers have now figured out just how that happens. According to a study published today (October 27) in Science, a particular type of cell—called an interneuron—in the hippocampus processes the animals’ experiences and subsequently shapes the newly formed neurons.

Most of the cells in the adult mammalian brain are mature and don’t divide, but in a few regions, including an area of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus, neurogenesis occurs. The dentate gyrus is thought to be involved in the formation of new memories. In mice, for instance, exploring novel surroundings electrically activates the dentate gyrus and can affect the production, maturation, and survival of the newly born cells. Now, Alejandro Schinder and his team at the Leloir Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina, have investigated the process in detail.More.

What we thought we knew about how mice or people can’t change might have done a lot of damage. It’s no one’s fault unless we keep it up when we know better.

See also: There’s a gene for that… or is there?

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