Using widely available techniques, Manganas et al. have been able to characterize a marker to quantify the presence of neural progenitor cells (NPCs) in rodent and human brains, in vivo. They are actually utilizing much of the same technique that takes two distinct functional forms; at the end of the day it’s all nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, but the commonly used NMR in organic chemistry is employed for characterizing chemicals, while the more familiar (to the neurosciences) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is utilized for visualization of the brains in vivo. According to Manganas et al., “Our findings thus open the possibility of investigating the role of NPCs and neurogenesis in a wide variety of human brain disorders.”
In regard to the plasticity of adult brains, though known for several years now, it often takes a long time for dogma in sciences to change. It certainly does not occur on the scale of developmental processes, and it’s largely a coping mechanism to compensate for various injuries. However, the evidence for dynamism within the adult brain is clear — it’s actually hard to imagine proper neural function within our daily lives without it, as every new “thing” we learn has got to have a neural correlate.
The article appears in this week’s issue of Science Magazine.