In 1998, researchers made the surprising finding that neurogenesis—the production of new neurons—continues to occur in the adult brain. A year later, exercise and an enriched environment were shown to promote neurogenesis in adult mice. The laboratory of Jean Hebert, Ph.D., identified FGFR (fibroblast growth factor receptor) signaling as the molecular route through which those external stimuli trigger neural stem cells to produce new neurons in the mouse hippocampal dentate gyrus, a brain region vital for forming new memories.
The findings were published in 2021 in the Journal of Neuroscience. In this dentate gyrus cross-section, the blue cells are neurons. (Each blue dot is a neuron nucleus.) Stem cells, the green cells on the lower edge of the blue layer, extend thin green processes into the neurons. Astrocytes (which support neurons) are the upper green cells. Dr. Hebert is a professor in the Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience and of genetics. Marta Grońska-Pęski, Ph.D., conducted the research.