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Hippocampus. 2009 Apr;19(4):360-70. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20525.

Anatomical gradients of adult neurogenesis and activity: young neurons in the ventral dentate gyrus are activated by water maze training.

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National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Hippocampal function varies in a subregion-specific fashion: spatial processing is thought to rely on the dorsal hippocampus, whereas anxiety-related behavior relies more on the ventral hippocampus. During development, neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) proceeds along ventral to dorsal as well as suprapyramidal to infrapyramidal gradients, but it is unclear whether regional differences in neurogenesis are maintained in adulthood. Moreover, it is unknown whether young neurons in the adult exhibit subregion-specific patterns of activation. We therefore examined the magnitude of neurogenesis and the activation of young and mature granule cells in DG subregions in adult rats that learned a spatial water maze task, swam with no platform, or were left untouched. We found that both adult neurogenesis and granule cell activation, as defined by c-fos expression in the granule cell population as a whole, were higher in the dorsal than the ventral DG. In contrast, c-fos expression in adult-born granule cells, identified by PSA-NCAM or location in the subgranular zone, occurred at a higher rate in the opposite subregion, the ventral DG. Interestingly, c-fos expression in the entire granule cell population was equivalent in water maze-trained rats and swim control rats, but was increased in the young granule cells only in the learning condition. These results provide new evidence that hippocampally-relevant experience activates young and mature neurons in different DG subregions and with different experiential specificity, and suggest that adult-born neurons may play a specific role in anxiety-related behavior or other nonspatial aspects of hippocampal function.

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