New neurons are continuously formed in the adult hippocampus of the human, nonhuman primate, and rodent throughout life though rates of neurogenesis precipitously decline with age to near zero levels at the end of the natural life span. Since its discovery in the 1960s, a large number of studies have documented numerous environmental and genetic factors which regulate adult neurogenesis. Chief among the positive regulators of neurogenesis are exercise and antidepressant drugs. Chief among the negative regulators of neurogenesis besides age are stress and inflammation. To the extent that many psychiatric disorders are comorbid with or causally related to stress and inflammation, decreased neurogenesis could be a partial contributor to the pathophysiology of the disorders. However, the functional significance of new neurons in behavior has yet to be established and is currently a hotly debated topic. Therefore, it is not clear whether changes in neurogenesis that occur alongside psychiatric illnesses are a cause or a consequence of the mediating factors such as stress, drug abuse, and inflammation, which are complexly involved in the disorders. It will be important moving forward to use modern technologies capable of instantaneously inactivating cohorts of new neurons to test their functional significance in behavior and the etiology of mental illnesses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health