Discovered young neurons in the cerebral cortex of adult humans

  • Scientific Culture and Innovation Unit
  • April 13rd, 2022
Immature neuron in a 60-year-old woman. Photo: Simona Coviello.
Immature neuron in a 60-year-old woman. Photo: Simona Coviello.

A study involving the University of Valencia (UV), the Centre for Biomedical Research in Mental Health Networking Biomedical Research Centre (CIBERSAM), Hospital La Fe and the INCLIVA Health Research Institute shows that there are immature or young neurons in the human cerebral cortex during adult life. The work has been published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

To study in depth these immature neurons in humans – they had already been studied in other mammals – post-mortem material and biopsies from patients suffering from severe epilepsy, from whom a small portion of the cerebral cortex was removed for therapeutic purposes, has been used. “With this valuable material we have been able to corroborate the immaturity of these cells, demonstrate that they are distributed in practically all regions of our cerebral cortex and that they are found both in children and in the elderly”, highlights Juan Nácher, professor of UV Cell Biology, INCLIVA and CIBERSAM researcher, and director of the research team that participated in the study.

“We have also been able to find out that, if they matured definitively, they would do so in excitatory neurons (neurons responsible for activating other neurons). In addition, in some of these cells that have a more developed morphology, we have found evidence, with light and electron microscopy, of the presence of incipient connections between these neurons and others in our brain”, explains the UV professor in an article on this research published on the popular science platform The Conversation. This work has been a large part of the doctoral thesis of Simona Coviello, a brilliant Italian researcher, developed at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine (BIOTECMED) of the UV.

This research builds on previous work by Juan Nácher’s team, which demonstrated the immature characteristics of these cells in adult rodents and their progressive integration into functional excitatory neurons in the olfactory cortex. In addition, in another joint study with the University of Turin, it was concluded that these immature neurons can be found in the cerebral cortex of various species of mammals (bats, cetaceans, felines, canines or primates). As we move up the evolutionary scale and the complexity of the cerebral cortex, these immature neurons have a broader distribution and are not restricted solely to the olfactory cortex as in rodents.


Article: Coviello S, Gramuntell Y, Klimczak P, Varea E, Blasco-Ibáñez JM, Crespo C, Gutierrez A and Nácher J (2022) «Phenotype and Distribution of Immature Neurons in the Human Cerebral Cortex Layer II». Front. Neuroanat. 16:851432. doi: 10.3389/fnana.2022.851432