Neuron Replacement: Improved Cognitive Function

How receptive is the adult neocortex to incorporating new projection neurons?
2013 Scientific Innovations Award
Jean M. Hébert, Ph.D.
Department of Neuroscience
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

The neocortex is the part of our brains that we use for our highest cognitive functions. The main neurons of the neocortex can be lost due to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer disease and ALS or insults such as stroke or trauma. Once lost, these neurons are not replaced, leading to permanent functional deficits. Developing strategies to replace these lost neurons is a daunting task because of the complexity and size of the neocortex. Previous attempts at replacing neurons in the neocortex using several types of transplanted neural stem cells have failed. An initial reason for these failures is the inability of the transplanted cells to disperse throughout the neocortical tissue. The goal of Dr.Hébert’s research is to develop an approach for introducing new, widely dispersed, neurons in the adult neocortex, providing a paradigm for testing whether they can functionally integrate and whether they can eventually provide the substrate for improved cognitive function.

Other Awards

Gregory Scherrer, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mechanisms of Affective States and Drug Discovery at the Intersection of Chronic Pain and Opioid Addiction
Pain is normally a sensation that we experience when our body is exposed to damaging stimuli, such as the noxious heat of an open flame. However, when chronic, pain becomes…
Shigeki Watanabe, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
Intrinsic and Extrinsic Mechanisms Underlying Synaptic Proteostasis
Waste management and sustainability are major challenges humans face in the 21st-century. As you concentrate and think about these issues, nerve cells in your brain must deal with the exact…
Ilana Witten, Ph.D. Princeton University
A Role for Dopamine During Rest and Sleep in Memory Consolidation
One of the most fundamental functions of the nervous system is to form memories of salient experiences. What neural mechanisms enables some experience to turn into permanent memories, while the…
Sandeep Robert Datta, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard University
Probing Sensation and Behavior in Autism Spectrum Disorder Models
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are characterized by repetitive behaviors and deficits in the core domains of language development and social interactions. While many ASD patients exhibit deficits in sensory processing,…