Functional neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus


There is extensive evidence indicating that new neurons are generated in the dentate gyrus of the adult mammalian hippocampus, a region of the brain that is important for learning and memory1,2,3,4,5. However, it is not known whether these new neurons become functional, as the methods used to study adult neurogenesis are limited to fixed tissue. We use here a retroviral vector expressing green fluorescent protein that only labels dividing cells, and that can be visualized in live hippocampal slices. We report that newly generated cells in the adult mouse hippocampus have neuronal morphology and can display passive membrane properties, action potentials and functional synaptic inputs similar to those found in mature dentate granule cells. Our findings demonstrate that newly generated cells mature into functional neurons in the adult mammalian brain.

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Figure 1: Dividing cells in the adult mouse dentate gyrus express early neural markers at 48 h after virus injection.
Figure 2: GFP+ cells in the dentate gyrus 4 weeks after virus injection express mature neuronal markers.
Figure 3: Newly generated neurons receive synaptic inputs.
Figure 4: Newly generated cells display neuronal electrophysiological properties.
Figure 5: Newly generated neurons are functionally similar to mature dentate granule cells.


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We are grateful for the assistance of L. R. Kitabayashi and J. Simon in preparing the figures. We thank E. Bushong for assistance with electron microscopy, and N. Manison and R. Summers for help with confocal imaging. We also thank D. Cuizon, S. Forbes, M. Matthews, B. Miller and L. Moore for technical help, and M. L. Gage and K. Ganguly for comments on the manuscript. N.T. is supported by the Swiss Research Foundation. This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, and The Lookout Fund.

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Correspondence to Henriette van Praag.

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van Praag, H., Schinder, A., Christie, B. et al. Functional neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus. Nature 415, 1030–1034 (2002).

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