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Dr. Fred H. Gage was born in Portsmouth, Virginia and earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. He later received his masterís degree and doctorate from The Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Now a Professor in the Laboratory of Genetics at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Dr. Gage was the first to discover that new neurons are born in the adult human brain in a process called neurogenesis. Dr. Gage now studies the cellular, molecular, and environmental influences that regulate neurogenesis in the adult brain and spinal cord. He also has done pioneering research linking an enriched environment and physical exercise to increased neurogenesis in the adult brain.

Dr. Gage has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1993 Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Health and Education, the Christopher Reeves Medal, the Decade of the Brain Medal, the Max-Planck Research Prize, and the Pasarow Award.

     

For links to this scientist's home page and other related infomation please see our resources page.

Gage responds :

12.06.00 Gregory White asked:
What are your favorite Web sites for keeping up on the latest developments in neuroscience? I see that several scientist are still active in their 70's. If someone is considering a career change and has a passion for neuroscience, in your judgement, would the 50's be too late an age to begin a formal course of study?

Gage's response:
There are very good Web sites on Neuroscience that can be helpful to readers with different degrees of training. I generally read the primary journals, which means the journals that present all the original data so that I can determine how the experiments were conducted and how the conclusions were formulated. However, depending on your level of interest and training, you can find great sites by using keywords that match your interest. (Editor's Note: the Resources section contains a list of sites related to this show)

On your other point, I believe that you are never too old to acquire new knowledge, and that in fact, the act of learning is likely good for you. Making a career change to the field of Neuroscience in your 50's is not impossible, but one has to realize that there is some risk and a lot of hard work. There is significant need for highly qualified technical staff members of a neuroscience team and much of what is needed can be brought in from other work-related experience, or learned on the job.

12.06.00 Paul asked:
I have read studies where stress hormones cause a reduction in the size of the hippocampus and that this may play a part in trauma related mental illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. As I understand it, the smaller hippocampus connects to fewer memories at a time. As the memories switch, flashbacks occur. In some cases involving severe trauma at a young age, the hippocampus is reduced in size enough, and the memory switches are so complete, that there are several different personalities. Also, has any study been done to show how much of the hippocampal growth is due to a reduction of the stress hormones and how much is due to simple exercise?
Gage's response:
I read of a recent study (involving only one person with Dissociative Identity Disorder) in which brain scans showed both an abnormally small hippocampus and different portions of the brain that were active when different "personalities" emerged. But no change of activity was noted when a faked personality was imagined to emerge. This work showing that the hippocampus can regrow tells me there is hope for those suffering from extreme emotional trauma. In fact, the finding that exercise can help accelerate hippocampal growth makes sense in that exercise reduces stress and thus stress hormones. This second question is a very important one. While it has been shown in experimental animals that increases in stress can reduce cell division in the brain and that increased exercise can increase cell division, the direct relationship between exercise and stress as it relates to birth of new neurons in the brain has not been completely answered. I do know that there are several labs around the world that are working on this very problem.
12.06.00 David Hulme asked:
My brother has Alzheimer's disease. If this condition could be stopped, do you think that someday it may be possible to regrow lost or damaged brain cells in an attempt to rehabilitate such people?
Gage's response:
I am sorry to hear about your brother. At present, the cause of Alzheimer's disease is not known, but there is significant progress being made. Much more research needs to be done on rehabilitation therapy with regard to aging and regrowth of new neurons in humans, but I think that if the progression of Alzheimer's disease could be halted, rehabilitation therapy would be a very likely strategy to increase the function of the brain.
12.06.00 Robert McKenzie asked:
What part of my brain, if any, is not utilized? Is it possible stem cells could be used to counter or relearn lost cerebral functions? What level of physical activity most successfully contributes to improved brain ability? For those plagued with bi-polar mental problems, does brain study suggest any answers or cures?
Gage's response:
People use all their brain during their life, not just part of the brain. It is true that one does not use all your brain all the time. For example, the parts of the brain and how you use your brain to read a book are different from those used to write a book, or to play tennis. If new cells were generated in the adult brain of an individual, it is possible that these new cells could be used to either increase the information learned, or to help in the learning and remembering of new information. The new cells would not likely have any memories in them alone. It is not known how much exercise is needed in humans to generate new cells. Based on experimental animal research it is likely that not a lot of exercise is needed, but rather that it should be regular and sustained for long periods of time to maintain the newly born cells. There is significant and important work in neuroscience that is being conducted now on the Bi-polar mental problems. At a recent meeting of the Society for Neuroscience there were hundreds of papers presented on recent progress made in testing new drugs and using imaging techniques like MRI and PET to assist in the diagnosis and therapy .


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