"We believe these findings have important implications for diverse disciplines ranging from medicine to artificial intelligence," said Dr. Malleret. "In medicine, these findings have significant implications for possible therapeutic interventions to improve memory ?a careful balance of neurogenesis would need to be struck to improve memory without overwhelming it with too much activity."
Many scientists had believed that neurogenesis in the hippocampus, and specifically, the dentate gyrus region, was wholly beneficial to memory. Previous research by Dr. Malleret with co-first author Michael D. Saxe, Ph.D., who was at Columbia when the research took place and is now at the Salk Institute in San Diego, Calif., found that reducing neurogenesis causes long-term memory deficits.
Based on this research, Drs. Malleret and Saxe hypothesized that the growth of too many new neurons could actually be more harmful than helpful to working memory. To examine this hypothesis, they designed working memory tests for two independent groups of mice in which neurogenesis in the hippocampus regions was suppressed. Results of the tests, in which mice had to locate food within specific areas of a maze, showed that mice in which neurogenesis had been halted made more correct choices and found the food faster.
"In our world, we are constantly bombarded by new information so we are constantly filtering –and if we did not do this, we would be overwhelmed," said Dr. Malleret. "Our research indicates that those with better working memory may have fewer new neurons being developed in their hippocampus, which helps them forget old and useless information sooner and enable them to take in new information faster."
Source:Columbia University Medical Center