New neurons in an adult brain
Neurons that grow in the brains of adults help to build associations between sensations and rewards.
Although scientists have known for several years that the adult brain can produce new neurons, many questions about the properties conferred by these adult-born neurons were left unanswered.
What advantages could they offer that are not offered by the neurons generated shortly after birth?
Scientists from the Institut Pasteur and the CNRS in France have recently demonstrated that the new neurons produced in adults react preferentially to reward-related sensory stimuli and help speed up the association between sensory information and reward.
Adult-born neurons therefore play an important role in both the identification of a sensory stimulus and the positive value associated with that sensory experience. The neurons generated shortly after birth are unable to perform this function.
The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.