Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Neurosci., 30 April 2013 | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00066

Adult hippocampal neurogenesis reduces memory interference in humans: opposing effects of aerobic exercise and depression

Nicolas Déry1, Malcolm Pilgrim1, Martin Gibala2, Jenna Gillen2, J. Martin Wojtowicz3, Glenda MacQueen4 and Suzanna Becker1*
  • 1Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  • 2Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  • 3Department of Physiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
  • 4Department of Psychiatry, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Since the remarkable discovery of adult neurogenesis in the mammalian hippocampus, considerable effort has been devoted to unraveling the functional significance of these new neurons. Our group has proposed that a continual turnover of neurons in the DG could contribute to the development of event-unique memory traces that act to reduce interference between highly similar inputs. To test this theory, we implemented a recognition task containing some objects that were repeated across trials as well as some objects that were highly similar, but not identical, to ones previously observed. The similar objects, termed lures, overlap substantially with previously viewed stimuli, and thus, may require hippocampal neurogenesis in order to avoid catastrophic interference. Lifestyle factors such as aerobic exercise and stress have been shown to impact the local neurogenic microenvironment, leading to enhanced and reduced levels of DG neurogenesis, respectively. Accordingly, we hypothesized that healthy young adults who take part in a long-term aerobic exercise regime would demonstrate enhanced performance on the visual pattern separation task, specifically at correctly categorizing lures as “similar.” Indeed, those who experienced a proportionally large change in fitness demonstrated a significantly greater improvement in their ability to correctly identify lure stimuli as “similar.” Conversely, we expected that those who score high on depression scales, an indicator of chronic stress, would exhibit selective deficits at appropriately categorizing lures. As expected, those who scored high on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) were significantly worse than those with relatively lower BDI scores at correctly identifying lures as “similar,” while performance on novel and repeated stimuli was identical. Taken together, our results support the hypothesis that adult-born neurons in the DG contribute to the orthogonalization of incoming information.

Keywords: hippocampus, neurogenesis, exercise, depression, interference, pattern separation

Citation: Déry N, Pilgrim M, Gibala M, Gillen J, Wojtowicz JM, MacQueen G and Becker S (2013) Adult hippocampal neurogenesis reduces memory interference in humans: opposing effects of aerobic exercise and depression. Front. Neurosci. 7:66. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2013.00066

Received: 26 January 2013; Paper pending published: 21 February 2013;
Accepted: 14 April 2013; Published online: 30 April 2013.

Edited by:

Gordon Winocur, The Rotman Research Institute, Canada

Reviewed by:

Henriette Van Praag, National Institutes of Health, USA
José L. Trejo, Institute Cajal – CSIC, Spain

Copyright © 2013 Déry, Pilgrim, Gibala, Gillen, Wojtowicz, MacQueen and Becker. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.

*Correspondence: Suzanna Becker, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, McMaster University, PC-312, 1280 Main St. West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada. e-mail: becker@mcmaster.ca

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