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This year, scientists working at Mater Research and the UQ Queensland Brain Institute discovered that new brain cells are being produced in a previously undiscovered area of the brain—the amygdala. This area of the brain is so important for how we process our emotional memories.
Disrupted connections in this part of the brain are linked to anxiety disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.
Mater Foundation Fellow Dr Dhanisha Jhaveri said the amygdala played a key role in fear learning in our brains—the process by which we associate a stimulus with a frightening event.
“Fear learning leads to the classic ‘flight or fight’ response – but finding ways of stimulating the production of new brain cells in the amygdala could give us new avenues for treating a range of disorders focussed on fear processing,” Dr Jhaveri said.
Previously, new brain cells in adults were only known to be produced in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for spatial learning and memory. This research at Mater marks a major shift in understanding the brain’s ability to adapt and regenerate.