Unraveling human adult hippocampal neurogenesis

Nat Protoc. 2020 Feb;15(2):668-693. doi: 10.1038/s41596-019-0267-y. Epub 2020 Jan 8.


Adult neurogenesis occurs in a few selected regions of the mammalian brain. One such region is the hippocampus, the so-called gateway to memory, where adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) occurs. Here, we provide a comprehensive description of the methods used in our laboratory to unambiguously detect a population of immature neurons in the human hippocampus until the 10th decade of life. The criteria used to refine and develop the current protocol include obtaining post-mortem human samples of remarkable quality and under tightly controlled conditions for immunohistochemistry (IHC) studies, optimizing tissue processing and histological procedures, establishing criteria to reliably validate antibody signal and performing unbiased stereological cell counts. Moreover, we provide a detailed description of the parameters that, in our view, should be reported in human AHN studies. The opposing results obtained by introducing slight variations in the methodological conditions should be considered by future studies that seek to increase our knowledge of this fascinating process. By applying simple and inexpensive tissue pre-treatments, this protocol, which can be completed in 7 days, might be applicable to a variety of IHC studies performed on other tissues of human (or animal) origin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cytological Techniques / methods*
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Staining and Labeling