Neuroplasticity is characterized by growth and branching of dendrites, remodeling of synaptic contacts, and neurogenesis, thus allowing the brain to adapt to changes over time. It is maintained in adulthood but strongly repressed during aging. An age-related decline in neurogenesis is particularly pronounced in the two adult neurogenic areas, the subventricular zone and the dentate gyrus. This age-related decline seems to be attributable mainly to limited proliferation, associated with an age-dependent increase in quiescence and/or a lengthening of the cell cycle, and is closely dependent on environmental changes. Indeed, when triggered by appropriate signals, neurogenesis can be reactivated in senescent brains, thus confirming the idea that the age-related decrease in new neuron production is not an irreversible, cell-intrinsic process. The coevolution of neurogenesis and age-related memory deficits - especially regarding spatial memory - during senescence supports the idea that new neurons in the adult brain participate in memory processing, and that a reduction in the ability to generate new neurons contributes to the appearance of memory deficits with advanced age. Furthermore, the age-related changes in hippocampal plasticity and function are under environmental influences that can favor successful or pathological aging. A better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate neurogenesis is necessary to develop new therapeutic tools to cure or prevent the development of memory disorders that may appear during the course of aging in some individuals.
- Spatial learning