Seasonal regulation of structural plasticity and neurogenesis in the adult mammalian brain: focus on the sheep hypothalamus

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2015 Apr:37:146-57. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2014.11.004. Epub 2014 Nov 22.


To cope with variations in the environment, most mammalian species exhibit seasonal cycles in physiology and behaviour. Seasonal plasticity during the lifetime contributes to seasonal physiology. Over the years, our ideas regarding adult brain plasticity and, more specifically, hypothalamic plasticity have greatly evolved. Along with the two main neurogenic regions, namely the hippocampal subgranular and lateral ventricle subventricular zones, the hypothalamus, which is the central homeostatic regulator of numerous physiological functions that comprise sexual behaviours, feeding and metabolism, also hosts neurogenic niches. Both endogenous and exogenous factors, including the photoperiod, modulate the hypothalamic neurogenic capacities. The present review describes the effects of season on adult morphological plasticity and neurogenesis in seasonal species, for which the photoperiod is a master environmental cue for the successful programming of seasonal functions. In addition, the potential functional significance of adult neurogenesis in the mediation of the seasonal control of reproduction and feeding is discussed.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Hippocampus; Hypothalamus; Metabolism; Neuroblast; Neurogenic niche; Reproduction; Seasonality; Sheep; Structural plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / growth & development*
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Seasons*
  • Sheep / physiology*