From pattern to purpose: how comparative studies contribute to understanding the function of adult neurogenesis


Dr J. M. Barker, as above.


The study of adult neurogenesis has had an explosion of fruitful growth. Yet numerous uncertainties and challenges persist. Our review begins with a survey of species that show evidence of adult neurogenesis. We then discuss how neurogenesis varies across brain regions and point out that regional specializations can indicate functional adaptations. Lifespan and aging are key life-history traits. Whereas ‘adult neurogenesis’ is the common term in the literature, it does not reflect the reality of neurogenesis being primarily a ‘juvenile’ phenomenon. We discuss the sharp decline with age as a universal trait of neurogenesis with inevitable functional consequences. Finally, the main body of the review focuses on the function of neurogenesis in birds and mammals. Selected examples illustrate how our understanding of avian and mammalian neurogenesis can complement each other. It is clear that although the two phyla have some common features, the function of adult neurogenesis may not be similar between them and filling the gaps will help us understand neurogenesis as an evolutionarily conserved trait to meet particular ecological pressures.