Jean Hebert: Do Our Minds Have To Decline With Age?


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Dr. Jean Hebert is a professor at the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is also a professor in the department of genetics, and has conducted research that has been published in renowned journals such as Science. His current scope of research in the Hebert Lab includes devising methods of cell replacement for the adult neocortex after cell damage or age-related degeneration. In “Do Our Minds Have to Decline With Age?”, we explore just that, diving into topics such as the neocortex and neocortical function, cell damage, and age-related deterioration. ‘Dying of old age’ is not a medical term; rather, it is a description of what happens when critical parts of the body fail. Theoretically, if all parts of the body can be kept ‘young’ and healthy, we might have a chance of extending life indefinitely. While we are a long ways off from that, current cutting-edge research in the field of cell grafting, like conducted at the Hebert Lab, might hold to key to help save failing organs. Throughout this interview, we discuss the science behind the neocortex, a region of the brain responsible for higher-order brain functions such as motor function, sensory perception, and cognition. We also discuss cell transplantation and grafting, what aging truly means, and possible directions for future research. From his lab’s webpage, “In recent years, the mechanisms underlying how stem cells in the embryo generate the neocortex have become better understood. Armed with this knowledge, the Hébert Lab is developing stem cell transplantation approaches to regenerate adult neocortical tissue after age-related degeneration.” Finally, we discuss the ethics of these methods, such as the usage of embryonic stem cells, as well as the definition of self (Ship of Theseus – at what point does altering the human brain structure fundamentally alter the underlying human being?) We hope that you enjoy listening to an episode about rethinking aging, something we often take for granted, and learning about the direction of future research in this field.

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