Neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs) in the mammalian brain retain the ability to generate new neurones throughout life in discrete brain regions, through a process called adult neurogenesis. Adult neurogenesis, a dramatic form of adult brain circuitry plasticity, has been implicated in physiological brain function and appears to be of pivotal importance for certain forms of learning and memory. In addition, failing or altered neurogenesis has been associated with a variety of brain diseases such as major depression, epilepsy and age-related cognitive decline. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of the basic biology underlying the neurogenic process in the adult brain, focusing on mechanisms that regulate quiescence, proliferation and differentiation of NSPCs. In addition, we discuss how neurogenesis influences normal brain function, and in particular its role in memory formation, as well as its contribution to neuropsychiatric diseases. Finally, we evaluate the potential of targeting endogenous NSPCs for brain repair.
Keywords: granule cell; hippocampus; neural stem cell; neurogenesis; olfactory bulb; subventricular zone.
© 2013 British Neuropathological Society.