April 7th, 2018| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


For the longest time, no one cared about the brain. Aristotle (third century BCE) thought it helped cool the blood. The famous second-century physician, Galen, did figure out that the brain directed speech and movement, but thought it was the fluid-filled ventricles in the organ that did all the work. But we know better. Or at least, we think we know better.

But another axiom is biting the dust. Scientists from Columbia are overturning a well-accepted postulate. In “Human Hippocampal Neurogenesis Persists Throughout Aging” (in Cell: Stem Cell) recently, they showed that aging brains have as many new cells as do younger brains.

Lead author, Maura Boldrini:

When I went to medical school, they used to teach us that the brain stops making new cells. But researchers began to suspect that was wrong: Studies in mice showed that even the older mice produced new nerve cells. And early studies in humans started to turn up similar results.”

And this study has put the old theorem to rest (or so they think, and I hope they’re right, because, you know, I’m getting old).

Boldrini & Co. looked at 28 brains of (once-)healthy folks from 14 through 79 years. Specifically they looked at each brain’s hippocampus, important for learning and memory, and counted newly formed cells.


This was especially challenging. People who study mice with tiny brains—it’s easy. You cut them up, look at the cells, and you count them. But human brains are bigger and more complicated. We had to use specialized computer software to count the cells under a microscope.”

Now, granted, older brains were a bit challenged in making new blood vessels and new connections between brain cells, but—hey!—they had new cells.

Even us, old folks, can learn.

At around 60 years, and soon to be executed, Paul tells his protégé Timothy—and he writes from prison:

When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus,
and the books, especially the parchments.
2 Timothy 4:13

Said Spurgeon, of this verse:

He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!”

To that I’d add:

He’s old, and yet he wants books!”

And then there was Moses:

Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died,
his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.
Deuteronomy 34:7

Boldrini and her cohorts would’ve found new cells in that ancient’s brain.

That same guy, Moses, wrote in his psalm:

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

So, yes, it’s possible to have a heart (i.e., brain) of wisdom, when the number of our days are fewer and fewer.

And there is this biblical promise:

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the LORD, They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.
Psalm 92:12–14

Full of sap and very green, with plenty of hippocampal neurogenesis going on, I bet!

Keep on learning, ye old folks!

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