The function of neurogenesis in the adult brain is still unknown. Interventions such as environmental enrichment and exercise impinge on neurogenesis, suggesting that the process is regulated by experience. Conversely, a role for neurogenesis in learning has been proposed through ‘cellular plasticity’, a process akin to synaptic plasticity but operating at the network level. Although neurogenesis is stimulated by acute injury, and possibly by neurodegenerative processes such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), it does not suffice to restore function. While the role and direction of change in the neurogenic response at different stages of AD is still a matter of debate, it is possible that a deficit in neurogenesis may contribute to AD pathogenesis since at least one of the two regions ostensibly neurogenic in the adult human brain (the subgranular zone of the dentage gyrus and the ventriculo-olfactory neurogenic system) support high-level functions affected in early AD (associative memory and olfaction respectively).
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