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 Scientists uncover the role of a protein in production & survival of myelin-forming cells
19.07.2018 | Advanced Science Research Center, GC/CUNY

nachricht NYSCF researchers develop novel bioengineering technique for personalized bone grafts
18.07.2018 | New York Stem Cell Foundation

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>