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Neurogenesis and the edge of science
I went to another RSA lecture today. It was by the well-known researcher and professor Elizabeth Gould, who gave a fascinating talk on neurogenesis, which is the process of creating new brain cells. She also received the well-deserved Franklin Medal from the society, presented annually to a prominent person.
It seems like a kind of science fiction come true, with the prospect of being able to 'grow brains'. Of course the reality is a long way from such fantasy and it is found only in some parts of the brain, and mostly rat brains at that (though it has also been found in humans). It particularly occurs in the hypothalamus, which is connected with stress and learning.
It's early days but exciting stuff, and feels like the very cutting edge of new science. Much science is filling in the gaps from earlier breakthroughs, but this is still boldly going into the unknown. Such explorations are likely to go down many blind alleys and many late nights can be spent digging for gold.
My nephew who is studying cancer in his PhD research talked to me about this. One researcher can spend years of careful scientific experiment and find nothing, whilst another, using exactly the same methods, may make a marvellous discovery within a few days. It would seem that you must need remarkable resilience and determination to be a research scientist.
but how do they stay motivated??