Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Experience leads to the growth of new brain cells

10.05.2013
A new study examines how individuality develops

How do organisms evolve into individuals that are distinguished from others by their own personal brain structure and behaviour? Scientists in Dresden, Berlin, Münster, and Saarbrücken have now taken a decisive step towards clarifying this question.


In an environment with many stimuli, mice experience it differently. In one mouse (right) it leads to many new neurons (black dots), while in another mouse (left), significantly fewer new neurons develop.
© CRTD / DZNE / Freund

Using mice as an animal model, they were able to show that individual experiences influence the development of new neurons, leading to measurable changes in the brain. The results of this study are published in Science on May 10th. The DFG-Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden - Cluster of Excellence at the TU Dresden (CRTD), the Dresden site of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin played a pivotal role in the study.

The adult brain continues to grow with the challenges that it faces; its changes are linked to the development of personality and behaviour. But what is the link between individual experience and brain structure? Why do identical twins not resemble each other perfectly even when they grew up together? To shed light on these questions, the scientists observed forty genetically identical mice that were kept in an enclosure offering a large variety of activity and exploration options.

The animals were not only genetically identical, they were also living in the same environment,” explains principal investigator Gerd Kempermann, Professor for Genomics of Regeneration, CRTD, and site speaker of the DZNE in Dresden. “However, this environment was so rich that each mouse gathered its own individual experiences in it. Over time, the animals therefore increasingly differed in their realm of experience and behaviour.”

New neurons for individualized brains

Each of the mice was equipped with a special micro-chip emitting electromagnetic signals. This allowed the scientists to reconstruct the mice’s movement profiles and to quantify their exploratory behaviour. The result: Despite a common environment and identical genes the mice showed highly individualized behavioural patterns. They reacted to their environment differently. In the course of the three-month experiment these differences increased in size.

Though the animals shared the same life space, they increasingly differed in their activity levels. These differences were associated with differences in the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that supports learning and memory,” says Kempermann. “Animals that explored the environment to a greater degree also grew more new neurons than animals that were more passive.”

Adult neurogenesis, that is, the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus, allows the brain to react to new information flexibly. With this study, the authors show for the first time that personal experiences and ensuing behaviour contribute to the „individualization of the brain.“ The individualization they observed cannot be reduced to differences in environment or genetic makeup.

Adult neurogenesis also occurs in the hippocampus of humans,” says Kempermann. “Hence we assume that we have tracked down a neurobiological foundation for individuality that also applies to humans.”

Impulses for discussion across disciplines

The finding that behaviour and experience contribute to differences between individuals has implications for debates in psychology, education science, biology, and medicine,“ states Prof. Ulman Lindenberger, Director of the Center for Lifespan Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (MPIB) in Berlin. “Our findings show that development itself contributes to differences in adult behaviour. This is what many have assumed, but now there is direct neurobiological evidence in support of this claim. Our results suggest that experience influences the ageing of the human mind.“

In the study, a control group of animals housed in a relatively unattractive enclosure was also examined; on average, neurogenesis in these animals was lower than in the experimental mice. „When viewed from educational and psychological perspectives, the results of our experiment suggest that an enriched environment fosters the development of individuality,“ comments Lindenberger.

Interdisciplinary Teamwork

The study is also an example of multidisciplinary cooperation — it was made possible because neuroscientists, ethologists, computer scientists, and developmental psychologists collaborated closely in designing the experimental set-up and applying new data analysis methods. Biologist Julia Freund from the CRTD Dresden and computer scientist Dr. Andreas Brandmaier from the MPIB in Berlin share first authorship on the article. In addition to the DZNE, CRTD, and the MPIB, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Saarbrücken and the Institute for Geoinformatics and the Department of Behavioural Biology at the University of Münster were also involved in this project.

Contact

Prof. Dr. Gerd Kempermann
Research group leader of the CRTD & site speaker at DZNE Dresden
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases within the Helmholtz Association (DZNE)
Phone: +49 351 458-82201
Email: gerd.kempermann@­dzne.de
Prof. Dr. Ulman Lindenberger
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
Phone: +49 30 82406-572
Fax: +49 30 82499-571
Email: seklindenberger@­mpib-berlin.mpg.de
Prof. Dr. Norbert Sachser
Department of Behavioural Biology University of Münster
University of Münster
Phone: +49 251 83-23884
Email: sachser@­uni-muenster.de
Dr. Britta Grigull
Press and Public Relations
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
Phone: +49 30 82406-211
Email: grigull@­mpib-berlin.mpg.de

Original publication
Julia Freund, Andreas M. Brandmaier, Lars Lewejohann, Imke Kirste, Mareike Kritzler, Antonio Krüger, Norbert Sachser, Ulman Lindenberger, Gerd Kempermann
Emergence of Individuality in Genetically Identical Mice
Science

Prof. Dr. Gerd Kempermann | GFZ Potsdam
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/7241875/individuality?filter_order=L&research_topic=

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht NIH scientists illuminate causes of hepatitis b virus-associated acute liver failure
14.11.2018 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

nachricht Fish recognize their prey by electric colors
13.11.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

NIH scientists illuminate causes of hepatitis b virus-associated acute liver failure

14.11.2018 | Life Sciences

The unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs

14.11.2018 | Earth Sciences

NIH scientists combine technologies to view the retina in unprecedented detail

14.11.2018 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>