New research has suggested that people need to keep their brains active in order to stave off neurogenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.
Using studies of the developing brain, neuroscientists at the Queensland Brain Institute have suggested that a baby's brain can produce double the number of nerve cells needed to function adequately.
Of these, the cells that receive both chemical and electrical stimuli survive while the remaining ones "self-destruct".
According to the research team, this self-destruct process is an important factor in stroke, Alzheimer's and other motor neuron diseases- suggesting that people need to adopt a "use it or lose it" approach in order to prevent the loss of essential nerve cells from the brain.
Dr Elizabeth Coulson said: "We know that a lack of both chemical and electrical stimuli causes the cells to self-destruct, but we believe that nerve cells will survive if appropriate electrical stimuli are produced to block the self-destruct process that we have identified."
In the future the researchers plan to explore whether dying cells receiving only electrical stimulation can be rescued.
Meanwhile, researchers from the Mass General Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease in Boston have suggested that the changes in the brain which result in Alzheimer's can occur over just a few hours.
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