Mechanisms underlying how physical activity, environmental enrichment and antidepressants boost neurogenesis
These colourful cells (stained red and green) are new neurons within the dentate gyrus of the mouse brain. Most neurons in the mammalian brain are present from birth but in two particular regions – the dentate gyrus and the subventricular zone – a small number continue to be created throughout life. This neurogenesis naturally diminishes with age, but maintaining it may help keep brains healthy for longer. That’s because decreased neurogenesis is linked to cognitive decline, memory loss and depression. While physical activity, environmental enrichment and antidepressants can all boost neurogenesis in animals, the underlying mechanical links are unknown. Recently, research in mice showed environmental enrichment activates a brain region called the supramammillary nucleus (SuM) and that artificially stimulating SuM neurons, which connect to the dentate gyrus, induces neurogenesis. With this new mechanistic insight scientists have a basis for developing brain boosting interventions that could help patients with cognitive or memory problems.
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