Research Article

Hippocampal Neurogenesis Regulates Forgetting During Adulthood and Infancy

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Science  09 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6184, pp. 598-602
DOI: 10.1126/science.1248903

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When examining the relationship between the production of new neurons in the hippocampus and memory, studies have generally first manipulated hippocampal neurogenesis and afterward investigated memory formation and found that new neurons help to encode new memories. However, when investigating how similar manipulations of neurogenesis impact established hippocampus-dependent memories, Akers et al. (p. 598; see the Perspective by Mongiat and Schinder) uncovered a role for neurogenesis in memory clearance. Thus, the continuous addition of new neurons both degrades existing information stored in hippocampal circuits and simultaneously provides substrates for new learning.


Throughout life, new neurons are continuously added to the dentate gyrus. As this continuous addition remodels hippocampal circuits, computational models predict that neurogenesis leads to degradation or forgetting of established memories. Consistent with this, increasing neurogenesis after the formation of a memory was sufficient to induce forgetting in adult mice. By contrast, during infancy, when hippocampal neurogenesis levels are high and freshly generated memories tend to be rapidly forgotten (infantile amnesia), decreasing neurogenesis after memory formation mitigated forgetting. In precocial species, including guinea pigs and degus, most granule cells are generated prenatally. Consistent with reduced levels of postnatal hippocampal neurogenesis, infant guinea pigs and degus did not exhibit forgetting. However, increasing neurogenesis after memory formation induced infantile amnesia in these species.

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