Adult hippocampal neurogenesis of mammals: evolution and life history.
Substantial production of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain is restricted to the olfactory system and the hippocampal formation. Its physiological and behavioural role is still debated. By comparing adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) across many mammalian species, one might recognize a common function. AHN is most prominent in rodents, but shows considerable variability across species, being lowest or missing in primates and bats. The latter finding argues against a critical role of AHN in spatial learning and memory. The common functional denominator across all species investigated thus far is a strong decline of AHN from infancy to midlife. As predicted by Altman and colleagues in 1973, this implies a role in transforming juvenile unpredictable to predictable behaviour, typically characterizing mammalian behaviour once reproductive competence has been attained. However, as only a fraction of mammalian species has been investigated, further comparative studies are necessary in order to recognize whether AHN has a common unique function, or whether it mediates species-specific hippocampal functions.