Neuroscience

Neurogenesis and Navigation

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Science  16 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5878, pp. 850
DOI: 10.1126/science.320.5878.850d

One of the old dogmas in neuroscience is that neurons in the adult mammalian brain do not divide and hence that their number cannot increase. Recent discoveries, however, show that in some areas of the adult mammalian brain, new neurons are being generated throughout the life span of the organism. This revisionist view has led to the speculation that some kinds of information encoding may require adult neurogenesis. Adult-born neurons have been hypothesized to play a role in spatial memory formation in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, but a causal relation between neurogenesis and spatial memory has not been unequivocally documented.

Dupret et al. generated transgenic mice that selectively overexpressed the pro-apoptotic protein Bax in neural precursor cells in an inducible manner. Overexpression of Bax removed newly born cells in the adult dentate gyrus and caused a strong deterioration in the relational processing of spatial information in the Morris water maze. Animals were unaffected when tested on simpler forms of spatial knowledge; nor were they affected in tasks where memory could be acquired without the hippocampus. — PRS

PLoS One 3, e1959 (2008).

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