Genetic determinants of adult hippocampal neurogenesis correlate with acquisition, but not probe trial performance, in the water maze task

Eur J Neurosci. 2002 Jul;16(1):129-36. doi: 10.1046/j.1460-9568.2002.02042.x.


A number of reports have indicated that adult neurogenesis might be involved in hippocampal function. While increases in adult neurogenesis are paralleled by improvements on learning tasks and learning itself can promote the survival of newly generated neurons in the hippocampus, a causal link between learning processes and adult hippocampal neurogenesis is difficult to prove. Here, we addressed the related question of whether the baseline level of adult neurogenesis is predictive of performance on the water maze task as a test of hippocampal function. We used ten strains of recombinant inbred mice, based on C57BL/6, which are good learners and show high baseline levels of neurogenesis, and DBA/2, which are known to be poor learners and which exhibit low levels of adult neurogenesis. Two of these strains, BXD-2 and BXD-8, showed a 26-fold difference in the number of newly generated neurons per hippocampus. Over all strains, including the parental strains, there was a significant correlation between the number of new neurons generated in the dentate gyrus and parameters describing the acquisition of the water maze task (slope of the learning curves). Similar results were seen when the parental strains were not included in the analysis. There was no correlation between adult hippocampal neurogenesis and probe trial performance, performance on the rotarod, overall locomotor activity, and baseline serum corticosterone levels. This result supports the hypothesis that adult neurogenesis is involved in specific aspects of hippocampal function, particularly the acquisition of new information.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Maze Learning*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Neurons*
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Water


  • Water
  • Corticosterone