For a long time, scientists thought that it was impossible for brain cells to regenerate because they assumed that any new cells would disrupt the order of the brain. Research has shown that this is not true, and that brain cells can and do regenerate, especially in the areas related to learning, decision-making, visual recognition, and the way people perceive objects in space. Research is ongoing about neurogenesis (i.e., the birth of neurons), since it could be used to help treat conditions connected to memory loss or motor dysfunction.
More about brain cells:
- One of the main areas of research in regenerating brain cells has to do with one particular type of cell, glial cells. These start out as stem cells in the brain, but lose the ability to become different types of cells as a person ages. Researchers have discovered that they can be reprogrammed to change into nerve cells even in adults, which means that they could be used to replace damaged brain cells in people with injuries or diseases.
- Deep brain stimulation, a process that involves sending electrical pulses through the brain much like a pacemaker does for a heart, may be able to encourage the regeneration of brain cells as well. Though it's not entirely clear how it works, several studies have shown that this method reduces Alzheimer's and Parkinson's symptoms.
- Brain cells can also be grown from embryonic stem cells. Though research is mostly concentrated on monkeys so far, in several experiments scientists have been able to transplant stem-cell sourced brain cells grown from monkeys back into the monkeys' brains. If this worked for humans, it could greatly reduce the chances of a person's body rejecting the cells, since they come from the same body.