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Just a few years ago most scientists believed that the human adult does not produce new brain cells. What is now known is, yes, adults do generate new brain cells and that the area of the brain that creates the new cells is called the hippocampus. (The hippocampus plays a part in memory and spatial navigation.)

Researchers have developed a method to detect cells that are actively dividing–an indication that new nerve cells are being created. What is remarkable about their approach is that it is done non-invasively.

The technique uses MRI technology and some remarkable mathmatics developed by Dr. Petar M. Djuric, SUNY Stony Brook. His¬†algorithm made the markers for the dividing cells to stand out amid a field of visual “noise.” The principal is somewhat like how a submarine’s sonar is able to filter out the ambient nose except for other subs.

The ability to track the creation of new cells in living people is a major breakthrough in understanding brain development in children, the maturation of the adult brain, and the impairment of the degenerative brain. It could show us how neurogenesis is related to the course of diseases such as depression, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).