Throughout the adult life of all mammals including humans, new neurons are incorporated to the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. During a critical window that lasts about two weeks, adult-born immature neurons are more excitable and plastic than mature ones, and they respond to a wider range of inputs. In apparent contradiction, new neurons have been shown to be crucial to solve behavioral tasks that involve the discrimination of very similar situations, which would instead require high input specificity. We propose that immature neurons are initially unspecific because their task is to identify novel elements inside a high dimensional input space. With maturation, they would specialize to represent details of these novel inputs, favoring discrimination.
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