Adult hippocampal neurogenesis occurs throughout life and supports healthy brain functions. The production of new neurons decreases with age, and deficiencies in adult neurogenesis are associated with neurodevelopmental and degenerative disease. The rate of neurogenesis is dynamically sensitive to an individual's environmental conditions and experiences, and certain stimuli are known robustly to enhance neurogenesis in rodent models, including voluntary exercise, enriched environment, and electroconvulsive shock. In these models, information about an organism's environment and physiological state are relayed to neurogenic cell types within the hippocampus through a series of tissue and cellular interfaces, ultimately eliciting a neurogenic response from neural stem cells and newborn neurons. Therefore, an understanding of the way that novel genes and proteins act in specific cell types within this circuit-level context is of scientific and therapeutic value. Several well-studied neurotrophic factors have been implicated in environmentally enhanced neurogenesis. This review highlights recently discovered, novel molecular mediators of neurogenesis in response to environmental cues and summarizes the contribution of advanced, large-scale gene expression and function assessment technology to past, present, and future efforts aimed at elucidating cell-type-specific molecular mediators of environmentally enhanced neurogenesis.
Keywords: Enriched environment; Gene expression; Neural stem cells; Neurogenesis; Physical activity.