When I was studying biology in high school, it was common knowledge that you are born with all the brain cells you will ever have. Risk-taking activities such as drinking alcohol and ingesting drugs, we were warned, were bad because they killed brain cells, which would be lost forever. So when Adam showed me his image of newborn brain cells in the dentate gyrus of a mouse (see yesterday's entry), I was blown away not only by its awesome structure but by the fact that something I had thought true for most of my life is wrong.
Neurogenesis in adults, Adam patiently explained, has only been recognised in the past ten years or so. The hippocampus is an area deep within the brain that is involved with learning and memory, and many new cells are born there throughout one's life. Baby cells are born, but only those that receive the right input will survive; one important trigger of survival is links to other neurons, something that occurs during learning. In other words, use it or lose it!
Appropriately, I am creating my first embroidery for this project with the image of neurogenesis in the hippocampus as inspiration. Finding out about neurogenesis has opened a new realm of knowledge for me; thus (I hope) creating neuronal connections for the baby brain cells in my hippocampus and keeping them alive longer.