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Exp Neurol. 2010 Nov;226(1):173-82. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2010.08.022. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

Exposure to extremely low-frequency (50 Hz) electromagnetic fields enhances adult hippocampal neurogenesis in C57BL/6 mice.

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  • 1Institute of Human Physiology, Catholic University Medical School, Rome, Italy.


Throughout life, new neurons are continuously generated in the hippocampus, which is therefore a major site of structural plasticity in the adult brain. We recently demonstrated that extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields (ELFEFs) promote the neuronal differentiation of neural stem cells in vitro by up-regulating Ca(v)1-channel activity. The aim of the present study was to determine whether 50-Hz/1 mT ELFEF stimulation also affects adult hippocampal neurogenesis in vivo, and if so, to identify the molecular mechanisms underlying this action and its functional impact on synaptic plasticity. ELFEF exposure (1 to 7 h/day for 7 days) significantly enhanced neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of adult mice, as documented by increased numbers of cells double-labeled for 5-bromo-deoxyuridine (BrdU) and doublecortin. Quantitative RT-PCR analysis of hippocampal extracts revealed significant ELFEF exposure-induced increases in the transcription of pro-neuronal genes (Mash1, NeuroD2, Hes1) and genes encoding Ca(v)1.2 channel α(1C) subunits. Increased expression of NeuroD1, NeuroD2 and Ca(v)1 channels was also documented by Western blot analysis. Immunofluorescence experiments showed that, 30 days after ELFEF stimulation, roughly half of the newly generated immature neurons had survived and become mature dentate granule cells (as shown by their immunoreactivity for both BrdU and NeuN) and were integrated into the granule cell layer of the DG. Electrophysiological experiments demonstrated that the new mature neurons influenced hippocampal synaptic plasticity, as reflected by increased long-term potentiation. Our findings show that ELFEF exposure can be an effective tool for increasing in vivo neurogenesis, and they could lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches in regenerative medicine.

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