Scientists have discovered for the first time that adult mouse brains produce new cells in the amygdala, a finding that could eventually lead to better treatments for conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as a better understanding of the brain overall.
If the brain is capable of regenerating neurons in the amygdala, then that’s potentially one way of fighting back against these mental health issues, according to the team from the University of Queensland in Australia.
“While it was previously known that new neurons are produced in the adult brain, excitingly this is the first time that new cells have been discovered in the amygdala,” says one of the team, Pankaj Sah from the Queensland Brain Institute.
Neurogenesis – the process of producing new neurons – had only been spotted in human adults in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that handles long-term memory and also deals with emotional responses, and the striatum.
Right now it’s not clear what those new neurons do, or how the brain uses them, but their location is interesting and worthy of further study.
A study published in July found that implanting stem cells into the brain can help to extend the lifespan of mice, and it’s possible that a similar approach here could also have a positive effect.
“Finding ways of stimulating the production of new brain cells in the amygdala could give us new avenues for treating disorders of fear processing, which include anxiety, PTSD and depression,” says one of the team, Dhanisha Jhaveri.