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What Can Brain Research Tell Us About How We Learn? Mary Ball Fall 2007
Early Brain Studies • Studies of People After Brain Surgery or Brain Injuries (e.g. Henry M.) • Post-Mortem Examination of Brains and Brain Tissue (e.g. Alzheimer’s Disease)
Basic Brain Structure • Composed of Neurons and supporting cells • Myelinated axons appear white (hence called White Matter) • Unmyelinated tissue appears grey (hence called Grey Matter) • Neurons form “circuits” via Dendrites and Axons
Basic Neuron Structure • Source: NIH Publication No.02-3440d
The Visible Human Project • In 1994 and 1995, two cadavers were frozen in gelatin. • Starting at the head end, the block of frozen material was slowly ground down smooth and photos of the surface were repeatedly taken. • Photos were taken every mm for the male and every 1/3 mm for the female.
Whisker Removal in Mice Leads to “Dendritic Spine Sprouting” (2002)
In 1962, researchers reported evidence of limited neurogenesis in rats following brain damage.
In 1998, researchers reported neurogenesis in the adult human hippocampus. • Immunofluorescence for neurons (a), new cells (b), and glial cells (c) indicated the new cells were neurons!
Summary of What the Researchers Already Knew • The human hippocampi are important in long-term memory. • Neurogenesis is possible in the hippocampi in adults. • Dentritic growth and spine sprouting have been directly observed in mice adjusting to change. • Voxel-Based Morphometry can be used to detect changes in gray matter volume over time and/or between groups. • Learning to juggle resulted in transient increases in gray matter in a sample of young adults.