Responsiveness of dentate neurons generated throughout adult life is associated with resilience to cognitive aging

Abstract :

During aging, some individuals are resilient to the decline of cognitive functions whereas others are vulnerable. These inter-individual differences in memory abilities have been associated with differences in the rate of hippocampal neurogenesis measured in elderlies. Whether the maintenance of the functionality of neurons generated throughout adult life is linked to resilience to cognitive aging remains completely unexplored. Using the immediate early gene Zif268, we analyzed the activation of dentate granule neurons born in adult (3-month-old), middle-aged (12-month-old), or senescent (18-month-old) rats (n = 96) in response to learning when animals reached 21 months of age. The activation of neurons born during the developmental period was also examined. We show that adult-born neurons can survive up to 19 months and that neurons generated 4, 10, or 19 months before learning, but not developmentally born neurons, are activated in senescent rats with good learning abilities. In contrast, aged rats with bad learning abilities do not exhibit activity-dependent regulation of newborn cells, whatever their birthdate. In conclusion, we propose that resilience to cognitive aging is associated with responsiveness of neurons born during adult life. These data add to our current knowledge by showing that the aging of memory abilities stems not only from the number but also from the responsiveness of adult-born neurons.


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