How do you remember where you parked your car and will your brain shrink if you can’t remember?
Neuroscientist Elizabeth Kirby heads the Kirby Lab at the Ohio State University – Department of Psychology. Drawn by the power of science to discover the truths of the world through experimentation and replication. Kirby has set her sights on the workings of the Hippocampus. Studying its cells, circuitry and relatively new found power of neurogenesis. Research has shown that too much of the wrong kind of stress can cause the branching in the amygdala to grow and the hippocampus to actually shrink.
Researching the power of stress and its affects on the cell and the entire brain, from cell division to neuron development and the life of those neurons, Kirby has demonstrated the effects of stressors – brief or constant – positive or negative – affect cell functioning at every stage. Relative stressors can make functioning a little better or cause the cells to literally die off. Kirby has found that certain types and amounts of stress can be a good thing. However, chronic stress and depression have a detrimental influence, impacting our overall health, emotions and brain in a negative manner.
Memory is also impacted. Memories are dependent on the hippocampus for establishing the workings of place, procedural and autobiographical narratives through relative created circuitry. Retrievable memories ensure our growth and survival. We need to remember a dangerous intersection we pass each day, but maybe not so much what we had for breakfast yesterday. The cells and neurons in our brain are responsible for how we remember where we parked our car and our personal history and narrative.
With its potential for neuron growth, and responsibility for critically functioning memory (my new favorite part of the brain) the hippocampus is a likely candidate to study to unveil the mysteries of unraveling the potential for healing and regeneration of the brain.