Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and University Honors
Nervous system -- Degeneration, Developmental neurobiology, Neuroplasticity
In the 1960’s, Joseph Altman discovered the creation of new neurons continues well into the adulthood of mammals. His work lay dormant for several decades possibly as a result of limitations in technology or the limited perceived usefulness at the time. In the 1990’s Altman’s discovery gained newfound interest and has stayed in researcher's interest ever since. A combination of improved imaging techniques, a continued shift in the public image of mental disorders, and a desire to aid those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders has led to many attempts to parse out the details of neurogenesis. After a number of studies that explore only the quantity and density of neurogenesis, there has been a small surge in research on the usefulness of neurogenesis. It is well established that the human brain is more than capable of managing itself in terms of the space and use of all the cognitive real estate. Why, then, is it useful to aid the growth of new neurons? All throughout a person’s development the brain naturally prunes neurons and in many cases of physical damage the brain’s neuroplasticity is able to recover a wide range of functions that would otherwise be considered lost. Because of this it is important to categorize types of neurodegeneration and what the effects of that damage is. I will begin this literature review by categorizing the types of neurodegeneration then follow up on the various methods that have been found to promote neurogenesis. Finally, I will go over the effects of neurogenesis that have been researched thus far. It is easy to assume that we should always try to promote neurogenesis as a part of healthy brain growth and maintenance but this should first be confirmed through scientific method. It is entirely possible that attempting to promote neurogenesis could be harmful, or not produce any measurable difference in health except in the most extreme cases. This is why more research needs to be done before coming to any broad conclusions. It should be proven that neurogenesis actually produces measurable differences in health and/or cognition and what kind of conclusions can be drawn from the creation of new neurons well into adulthood.
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Martinez, Jesus I., "The Effects of Neuron Degeneration and Methods of Neurogenesis" (2020). University Honors Theses. Paper 909.