Understanding the cellular mechanisms underlying learning and memory is a major challenge in neurobiology. Structural and functional changes occurring in the hippocampus such as synaptic remodeling and long-term potentiation are key signatures of long-term memory processes. The discovery of a de novo hippocampal production of neurons in the adult brain has been a breakthrough in the field of plasticity and memory, introducing a new actor that could sustain memory processes. Here we will review our current knowledge on the role of these adult new neurons in memory. In particular we will provide evidence showing that they are required for learning and memory and that an alteration in their production rate or maturation leads to memory impairments. Through a thorough survey of the literature, we will also acknowledge that there are many controversies regarding the specific role played by newborn neurons. The emerging picture is that they are involved in the establishment of spatiotemporal relationships among multiple environmental cues for the flexible use of the acquired information. Indeed, newborn neurons have been found to be required for separating events based on their spatial and temporal characteristics, a process that preserves the uniqueness of a memory representation. Thus, adult-born neurons are required for allocentric space representation, for long-term memory retention and for flexible inferential memory expression. Finally, we will conclude by highlighting directions for future research, emphasizing that the exact participation of newborn neurons in memory processes will not be approached without considering the hippocampal network in general.
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