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Adult Neurogenesis

Author(s): Tadzia GrandPré, PhD

Neurogenesis and Disease

The birth of new neurons in the hippocampus also may play a role in various neurological disorders and diseases, including epilepsy and depression. Studies have shown that many therapies and medications used successfully to treat individuals suffering from depression can cause an increase in the production of new hippocampal neurons. Others have demonstrated that the beneficial effects of some antidepressants are blocked when neurogenesis is prevented. These and other observations suggest that a reduction of neurogenesis could be an underlying cause of depression. If this hypothesis is correct, it may be possible to help people who are suffering from depression by developing ways to increase the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. In contrast, by using animals to study temporal lobe epilepsy, scientists have shown that neurogenesis increases in response to prolonged seizure activity. However, in this case, the production of new neurons is not beneficial because those neurons develop, migrate, and integrate inappropriately and seem to contribute to recurrent seizures. Although the functional significance of abnormal neurogenesis in these and other medical conditions is not yet understood, it is an intense area of research that may one day yield new treatments for these disorders.