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Learning enhances adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal formation


Thousands of hippocampal neurons are born in adulthood, suggesting that new cells could be important for hippocampal function. To determine whether hippocampus-dependent learning affects adult-generated neurons, we examined the fate of new cells labeled with the thymidine analog bromodeoxyuridine following specific behavioral tasks. Here we report that the number of adult-generated neurons doubles in the rat dentate gyrus in response to training on associative learning tasks that require the hippocampus. In contrast, training on associative learning tasks that do not require the hippocampus did not alter the number of new cells. These findings indicate that adult-generated hippocampal neurons are specifically affected by, and potentially involved in, associative memory formation.

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Figure 1: Learning that requires the hippocampus, but not other types of learning or a similar experience in the absence of overt learning, increased the numbers of adult-generated hippocampal granule neurons.
Figure 2: The number of new neurons in the granule cell layer (Gcl) of adult rats increases following spatial learning in the Morris water maze.

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We thank Charles Gross for comments on the manuscript and Joseph Goodhouse for assistance with confocal imaging. This work was supported by MH52423, MH59970 and IBN9511027.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth Gould.

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Gould, E., Beylin, A., Tanapat, P. et al. Learning enhances adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal formation. Nat Neurosci 2, 260–265 (1999).

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