Hippocampal neurogenesis is influenced by many factors. In this study, we examined the effect of tactile stimulation (tickling), which induced positive emotion, on neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus. Four week-old rats were tickled for 5 min/day on 5 consecutive days and received 5-bromo-2'-deoxyuridine (BrdU) administration for 4 days from the second tickling day. Then they were allowed to survive for 18 h or 3 weeks after the end of BrdU treatment. Neurogenesis in the DG was compared between the tickled and untickled rats by using immunohistochemistry with anti-BrdU antibody. The result showed that the number of BrdU- and NeuN (neural cell marker)-double positive neurons on 18h as well as 3 weeks of the survival periods was significantly increased in the tickled group as compared with the untickled group. The expression of mRNA of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the hippocampus of the tickled rats was not altered when compared with the control rats. In conclusion, tickling stimulation which induces positive emotion may affect the generation and survival of new neurons of the DG through the BDNF-independent pathway.
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