"It is not that learning makes more cells," said Tracey Shors, a Professor at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey in US. It is that the process of learning keeps new cells alive that are already present at the time of the learning experience, Shors added.

The experiment showed that the newborn brain cells in young rats that were successful at learning survived while the same brain cells in animals that didn't master the task died quickly.

The study is important, Shors said, because it suggests that the massive proliferation of new brain cells most likely helps young animals leave the protectiveness of their mothers and face dangers, challenges and opportunities of adulthood.

Since the process of producing new brain cells on a cellular level is similar in animals, including humans, Shors said ensuring that adolescent children learn at optimal levels is critical. The study appeared in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience.


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