Neurogenesis in the adult hypothalamus: A distinct form of structural plasticity involved in metabolic and circadian regulation, with potential relevance for human pathophysiology

Handb Clin Neurol. 2021;179:125-140. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-819975-6.00006-6.


The adult brain harbors specific niches where stem cells undergo substantial plasticity and, in some regions, generate new neurons throughout life. This phenomenon is well known in the subventricular zone of the lateral ventricles and the subgranular zone of the hippocampus and has recently also been described in the hypothalamus of several rodent and primate species. After a brief overview of preclinical studies illustrating the pathophysiologic significance of hypothalamic neurogenesis in the control of energy metabolism, reproduction, thermoregulation, sleep, and aging, we review current literature on the neurogenic niche of the human hypothalamus. A comparison of the organization of the niche between humans and rodents highlights some common features, but also substantial differences, e.g., in the distribution and extent of the hypothalamic neural stem cells. Exploring the full dynamics of hypothalamic neurogenesis in humans raises a formidable challenge however, given among others, inherent technical limitations. We close with discussing possible functional role(s) of the human hypothalamic niche, and how gaining more insights into this form of plasticity could be relevant for a better understanding of pathologies associated with disturbed hypothalamic function.

Keywords: Adult neurogenesis; Hypothalamus; Neural stem/progenitor cells; Neurogenic niche; Species difference; Tanycytes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus
  • Neural Stem Cells*
  • Neurogenesis*
  • Neurons