Microscopes allows us to visualise the fascinating tiny world of the neuron. It is an essential tool for investigating neurogenesis, the process of neuronal birth. In our mother’s womb, neurogenesis gives rise to our entire brain. Yet remarkably, in adulthood neurogenesis continues in two special parts of the brain: the hippocampus (dentate gyrus to be specific) and all around the subventricular zone.
When working with adult brain tissue, we use histological staining techniques to label cells at different stages of neurogenesis. This allows us to visualise them. Once visualised, we can count them!
In the image below we have used two different histological stains. The first is Cresyl Violet (blue) – this labels for all ‘old’ neurons. The second is doublecortin (brown) – this labels for ‘baby’ neurons, newly formed, and hence is one marker for adult neurogensis.