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Neural stem cells can be isolated from several regions of the adult mammalian brain, but only the ventricle wall/olfactory bulb system and the dentate gyrus continue to produce new neurons in vivo. As yet, it remains unresolved if and how these new neurons contribute to brain functions. However, a continuously growing number of regulatory signals for adult neurogenesis have been described. More general stimuli, such as environmental stimulation and physical activity, as well as pathological conditions like stroke, brain lesions, stress and seizures have profound effects on the generation of new neurons. On a molecular level, our strategy involves growth factor infusions, neurotransmitter lesions and transgenic/knock-out technology to determine how adult neurogenesis is regulated. It appears that, similar to embryonic development, a delicate balance of proliferation and apoptosis determines the number of new neurons as the outcome of continuous stem cell activity in the adult brain.
This work is supported by the Volkswagen-Stiftung.