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Medical Question about naturally enhancing brain

  1. Apr 23, 2007 #1
    I have read that scientists have been able to discover adult stem cells in human brains in the grey matter. Is it possible to activate and control the differentiation of these stem cells into different neuron types within the human brain itself instead of a culture? If not, why not? what would one need to investigate to try to do this? What is there in the brain that produces adult stem cells?

    Also maybe this is a silly question but if you increase your cranium size artificially
    , would the brain expand to fill this enlarged cranium? Will it do this
    regardless of age?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2007 #2
    The first question is tricky, what we need is more stem cell research of all types.

    Second question is a little trickier--it all depends. Put your favorite lightweights brain into Lord Byron's massive cranium, likely a void on two accounts would exist. But the converse is not. If for whatever reason, the brain used to a well fitting house expands, bad things happen. In the worst case, it starts to get pushed out any available exit, Unfortunately, very critical structures in the midbrain are compromised as they get shoved out the hole for the spinal cord.
  4. Apr 24, 2007 #3
    Your question prompted me to read a review article about adult stem cells (Temple and Alvarez-Buylla 1999). They have found neuron precursor cells in two brain locations, the olfactory bulb and the dentate gyrus.

    It seems that they can indeed activate the proliferation of these "stem cells" in vivo. As for "controlling differentiation" they seem to have been optimistic about possibilities for grafting these cells and getting them to differentiate into the cell type located near the graft site. This was 1999 though, I probably should have read a newer review to find out if this was successful...

    The part I found most interesting was that the stem cells in the dentate gyrus produce hippocampal neurons, this being a structure primarily involved in learning and memory. So the possibility of neurogenesis being involved in learning and memory is raised. I've never heard of neurogenesis as a mechanism for hippocampal function anywhere else... Maybe someone else here knows more about this?
  5. Apr 24, 2007 #4
    It would be great if this is the case, not so much from the standpoint of increasing intelligence as treating Parkinsons and other debilitating diseases that result from the loss of relatively few neurons.
  6. Apr 24, 2007 #5
    Of course the "holy grail" of this kind of research would be to develop a technique for reliably grafting stem cells into the substantia nigra and having them differentiate appropriately and make the right connections to be useful in treating parkinson's disease.
  7. Apr 27, 2007 #6
    Better that than some monkey brain sludge to be sure.
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