A role for adult hippocampal neurogenesis at multiple time scales: A study of recent and remote memory in humans.
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Adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) is downregulated by numerous lifestyle factors including chronic stress. While the functional significance of AHN remains elusive, computational models and empirical evidence implicate immature neurons in minimizing interference between similar memories-a process termed pattern separation. The role of neurogenesis in remote memory is less clear. Some have proposed that neurogenesis promotes the clearance of old memories from the hippocampus, while others have proposed that neurogenesis promotes long-term retention of memories within the hippocampus. We used a modified version of the behavioral pattern separation task originally described by Kirwan and Stark (2007). In this task, some objects are repeated across trials, some are similar lures and the rest are novel. Participants are asked to classify each object as old, new, or similar. The correct classification of lures as similar may tax pattern separation processes in the hippocampus and AHN. To investigate the potential role of AHN in remote memory, we introduced a 2-week delay between the presentation and recognition of certain stimuli. As in previous studies, we found that those with higher depression scores made significantly more errors at identifying lures as similar when presentation and recognition were separated by a brief delay. When presentation and recognition trials were separated by a longer delay, the correct classification of lures dropped to chance levels for all groups, but now lower stress and depression scores were associated with superior identification of exact repetitions. Our data suggest a role for AHN in the stabilization of remote memories.
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