Dopamine controls formation of new brain cells
A study ...published in the prestigious scientific journal Cell Stem Cell show(s) how in acting as a kind of switch for stem cells, dopamine controls the formation of new neurons in the adult brain...
The study was conducted using salamanders which unlike mammals recover fully from a Parkinson’s-like condition within a four week period... As the salamander re-builds all lost dopamine-producing neurons, the researchers examined how the salamander brain detects the absence of these cells. This question is a fundamental one since it has not been known what causes the new formation of nerve cells and why the process ceases when the correct number have been made.
What they found out was that the salamander’s stem cells are automatically activated when the dopamine concentration drops as a result of the death of dopamine-producing neurons, meaning that the neurotransmitter acts as a constant handbrake on stem cell activity.
... by studying the salamander, scientists can understand how the production of new nerve cells can be resumed once it has stopped, and how it can be stopped when no more neurons are needed. It is precisely in this regulation that dopamine seems to play a vital part...
Publication: 'Dopamine Controls Neurogenesis in the Adult Salamander Midbrain in Homeostasis and during Regeneration of Dopamine Neurons', Anders A Berg, Matthew Kirkham, Heng Wang, Jonas Frisén & Andras Simon, Cell Stem Cell, online 7 April 2011.