Reactive oxygen molecules, also known as “free radicals”, are generally considered harmful. However as it now turns out, they control cellular processes, which are important for the brain’s ability to adapt – at least in mice.
The researchers focused on the “hippocampus”, a brain area that is regarded as the control center for learning and memory. New nerve cells are created lifelong, even in adulthood. “This so-called adult neurogenesis helps the brain to adapt and change throughout life. It happens not only in mice, but also in humans,” explains Prof. Gerd Kempermann, speaker of the DZNE’s Dresden site and research group leader at the CRTD.