Adult hypothalamic neurogenesis and sleep-wake dysfunction in aging

Sleep. 2021 Feb 12;44(2):zsaa173. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsaa173.


In the mammalian brain, adult neurogenesis has been extensively studied in the hippocampal sub-granular zone and the sub-ventricular zone of the anterolateral ventricles. However, growing evidence suggests that new cells are not only "born" constitutively in the adult hypothalamus, but many of these cells also differentiate into neurons and glia and serve specific functions. The preoptic-hypothalamic area plays a central role in the regulation of many critical functions, including sleep-wakefulness and circadian rhythms. While a role for adult hippocampal neurogenesis in regulating hippocampus-dependent functions, including cognition, has been extensively studied, adult hypothalamic neurogenic process and its contributions to various hypothalamic functions, including sleep-wake regulation are just beginning to unravel. This review is aimed at providing the current understanding of the hypothalamic adult neurogenic processes and the extent to which it affects hypothalamic functions, including sleep-wake regulation. We propose that hypothalamic neurogenic processes are vital for maintaining the proper functioning of the hypothalamic sleep-wake and circadian systems in the face of regulatory challenges. Sleep-wake disturbance is a frequent and challenging problem of aging and age-related neurodegenerative diseases. Aging is also associated with a decline in the neurogenic process. We discuss a hypothesis that a decrease in the hypothalamic neurogenic process underlies the aging of its sleep-wake and circadian systems and associated sleep-wake disturbance. We further discuss whether neuro-regenerative approaches, including pharmacological and non-pharmacological stimulation of endogenous neural stem and progenitor cells in hypothalamic neurogenic niches, can be used for mitigating sleep-wake and other hypothalamic dysfunctions in aging.

Keywords: aging; cell proliferation; hypothalamus; neurogenesis; sleep–wake regulatory systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Hypothalamus*
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Sleep
  • Wakefulness