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New neurons generated from running are broadly recruited into neuronal activation associated with three different hippocampus-involved tasks



Running increases the formation of new neurons in the adult rodent hippocampus. However, the function of new neurons generated from running is currently unknown. One hypothesis is that new neurons from running contribute to enhanced cognitive function by increasing plasticity in the adult hippocampus. An alternative hypothesis is that new neurons generated from running incorporate into experience-specific hippocampal networks that only become active during running. The purpose of this experiment was to determine if new neurons generated from running are selectively activated by running, or can become recruited into granule cell activity occurring during performance on other behavioral tasks that engage the hippocampus. Therefore, the activation of new 5–6 week neurons was detected using BrdU, NeuN, and Zif268 triple-label immunohistochemistry in cohorts of female running and sedentary adult C57BL/6J mice following participation in one of three different tasks: the Morris water maze, novel environment exploration, or wheel running. Results showed that running and sedentary mice displayed a nearly equivalent proportion of new neurons that expressed Zif268 following each task. Since running approximately doubled the number of new neurons, the results demonstrated that running mice had a greater number of new neurons recruited into the Zif268 induction in the granule cell layer following each task than sedentary mice. The results suggest that new neurons incorporated into hippocampal circuitry from running are not just activated by wheel running itself, but rather become broadly recruited into granule cell layer activity during distinct behavioral experiences. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.