The focus of the Fitzsimons lab is to identify common mechanisms by which brain insults affect the hippocampus. For this, they focus on a group of insults that modify the proliferation of neural stem cells, resulting in the presence of abnormal neurons and circuit alterations associated with neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment. In their recent publication Fitszimons and colleagues demonstrate how hormone cycles preserve a population of neural stem cells in the aging brain.
How the brain changes during aging, is highly heterogeneous due to genetic, environmental, emotional and other factors, such as the influence of hormones. Glucocorticoid hormones are important regulators of neural stem/precursor cell (NSPC) proliferation. These stem/precursor cells are involved in maintaining neural plasticity. Glucocorticoid hormones are released in pulses, generating circadian oscillations. With their study Marijn Schouten, Pascal Bielefeld, Paul Lucassen, Carlos Fitzsimons and colleagues show that glucocorticoid hormones oscillations are associated with preserving a specific NSPC cell population in the dentate gyrus brain area. This suggests a novel mechanism that controls the maintenance of NSPC in the aging brain and presenting a possible source of neuroplasticity reserve that could be exploited to sustain hippocampus-dependent cognitive functions throughout life.
Read the article in Molecular Psychiatry 'Circadian glucocorticoid oscillations preserve a population of adult hippocampal neural stem cells in the aging brain'.
Or visit the website of the Fitzsimons lab.