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New neurons for 'survival of the fittest'

Abstract

Adult neurogenesis is often considered an archaic trait that has undergone a 'phylogenetic reduction' from amphibian ancestors to humans. However, adult neurogenesis in the hippocampal dentate gyrus might actually be a late-evolved trait. In non-mammals, adult hippocampal neurogenesis is not restricted to the equivalents of the dentate gyrus, which also show different connectivity and functionality compared to their mammalian counterpart. Moving actively in a changing world and dealing with novelty and complexity regulate adult neurogenesis. New neurons might thus provide the cognitive adaptability to conquer ecological niches rich with challenging stimuli.

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Figure 1: Phylogenetic map of adult neurogenesis.
Figure 2: Phylogenetic comparison of the hippocampus.
Figure 3: Simplified scheme of the basic circuitry of the hippocampus.
Figure 4: The doublecortin stage of adult hippocampal neurogenesis.

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The author thanks E. Brenowitz and P. Bateson for comments on the manuscript that have helped shape the evolutionary perspective.

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Kempermann, G. New neurons for 'survival of the fittest'. Nat Rev Neurosci 13, 727–736 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3319

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