Early learning encourages brain cell survival, according to a recent study. The researchers measured the brain cells in young animals who learned tasks or failed to learn them.
A team of researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey found that when people use their brain, especially during the adolescent years, their brain cells are more likely to survive.
An additional finding was that newborn brain cells in young rats that were successful at early learning survived but the same brain cells in animals that did not master the tasks that were presented died quickly.
“In those that didn’t learn, three weeks after the new brain cells were made, nearly one-half of them were no longer there,” Tracey Shors, co-author of the study and a professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers, said in a statement. “But in those that learned, it was hard to count. There were so many that were still alive.”
Shor added that the study was important because it suggests that the massive proliferation of new brain cells most likely helps young animals leave the protectiveness of their mothers and face dangers, challenges and opportunities of adulthood.
While scientists can’t measure individual brain cells in humans, Shors said the study, on the cellular level, provides a look at what is happening in the adolescent brain and provides a window into the amazing ability the brain has to reorganize itself and form new neural connections at such a transformational time in our lives.
“Adolescents are trying to figure out who they are now, who they want to be when they grow up and are at school in a learning environment all day long,” she said. “The brain has to have a lot of strength to respond to all those experiences.”