Learning and experience reshape the adult brain throughout its lifetime. In the hippocampus (a region important for learning and memory and the regulation of stress and anxiety), remodelling includes the addition of entirely new neurons. But much is still unknown about how these neurons affect our behaviour as we age.
Dr. Paula Duarte Guterman, Canada Research Chair in Behavioural Neuroscience, aims to shed light on the role these new neurons in the hippocampus play in our behaviour. To do this, she and her research team are using a new animal model, the common degu, a small rodent native to Chile. By adopting an approach that uses natural variations in the production of new neurons-due to sex, aging and parental experience-they hope to improve our understanding of how the hippocampus is shaped over a person’s lifetime and how it affects our behaviour.