The hippocampus is one of several limbic brain structures implicated in the pathophysiology and treatment of mood disorders. Preclinical and clinical studies demonstrate that stress and depression lead to reductions of the total volume of this structure and atrophy and loss of neurons in the adult hippocampus. One of the cellular mechanisms that could account for alterations of hippocampal structure as well as function is the regulation of adult neurogenesis. Stress exerts a profound effect on neurogenesis, leading to a rapid and prolonged decrease in the rate of cell proliferation in the adult hippocampus. In contrast, chronic antidepressant treatment up-regulates hippocampal neurogenesis, and could thereby block or reverse the atrophy and damage caused by stress. Recent studies also demonstrate that neurogenesis is required for the actions of antidepressants in behavioral models of depression. This review discusses the literature that has lead to a neurogenic hypothesis of depression and antidepressant action, as well as the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie the regulation of adult neurogenesis by stress and antidepressant treatment.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.