Why Adults Need New Brain Cells

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Science  10 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6133, pp. 695-696
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237976

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Few new cells are generated in the adult brain and spinal cord, and as such, nervous system plasticity was long thought to only involve modulating the contacts between preexisting “old” neurons. That view is changing. New neurons, as well as glial cells (specialized supporting cells), in the adult brain do indeed mediate certain types of plasticity, and the malfunction of such processes may cause neurological or psychiatric disease. On page 756 of this issue, Freund et al. (1) report a link between cognitive challenges, adult brain neurogenesis, and the development of individuality. This relationship supports the idea that a key function of adult neurogenesis is to shape neuronal connectivity in the brain according to individual needs.