Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
The hippocampal formation is one of the brain areas where neurogenesis persists during adulthood, with new neurons being continuously added to the population of dentate granule cells. However, the functional implications of this neurogenesis are unknown. On the other hand, the hippocampal formation is particularly concerned with the detection of novelty, and there are indications that dentate granule cells play a significant role in this function. Recently, the existence of inter-individual differences in behavioural reactivity to novelty has been evidenced, related to differences in the reactivity of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA). Rats that are highly reactive to novelty (HR) exhibit a prolonged corticosterone secretion in response to novelty and to stress when compared with low reactive rats (LR). Taking advantage of the existence of these inter-individual differences, we investigated whether neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus is correlated with the behavioural trait of reactivity to novelty. Rats were first selected according to their locomotor reactivity to a novel environment. Two weeks later, cell proliferation, evaluated by the incorporation of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) in progenitors, was studied by immunohistochemistry. We found that cell proliferation in the dentate gyrus was negatively correlated with locomotor reactivity to novelty. Indeed, cell proliferation in LR rats was twice that observed in HR rats. In contrast, survival of nascent neurons was not influenced by the behavioural trait of reactivity to novelty. Using an unbiased stereology, we show that LR rats had more cells within the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus than did HR rats. These results demonstrate the existence of inter-individual differences in neurogenesis and total granule cell number within the dentate gyrus. These differences in hippocampal plasticity can be predicted by the behavioural trait of reactivity to novelty.
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