April 01, 2014

Run! for your brain: Gary Westbrook

Gary Westbrook
At one point in your middle school or high school biology class, you may have learned that the number of neurons in your brain is set at birth. For examples your skin cells are constantly dying and being renewed. Your brain cells, on the other hand, cannot be renewed once they die.

In the last decade, however, scientists have discovered that this is not entirely true. A part of the brain called the hippocampus is one of the few sites for adult neurogenesis (the production of neurons after birth). Here, neurons are constantly being produced throughout life and incorporated into the current network of neurons. Interestingly, this part of the brain is important for the formation of episodic memories. Our guest this week, Gary Westbrook, Senior Scientist and Co-Director at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, is working to understand this important process. His lab is interested in what causes the production of new neurons and the incorporation of these neurons into existing neuronal networks. They have found that simple exercise is enough to increase the production of new neurons in rodents. Tune in to hear more about this vital and fascinating process.

More on the Westbrook Lab's research