Adult hippocampal neurogenesis declines in aging rodents and primates. Aging humans are thought to exhibit waning neurogenesis and exercise-induced angiogenesis, with a resulting volumetric decrease in the neurogenic hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) region, although concurrent changes in these parameters are not well studied. Here we assessed whole autopsy hippocampi from healthy human individuals ranging from 14 to 79 years of age. We found similar numbers of intermediate neural progenitors and thousands of immature neurons in the DG, comparable numbers of glia and mature granule neurons, and equivalent DG volume across ages. Nevertheless, older individuals have less angiogenesis and neuroplasticity and a smaller quiescent progenitor pool in anterior-mid DG, with no changes in posterior DG. Thus, healthy older subjects without cognitive impairment, neuropsychiatric disease, or treatment display preserved neurogenesis. It is possible that ongoing hippocampal neurogenesis sustains human-specific cognitive function throughout life and that declines may be linked to compromised cognitive-emotional resilience.
Hippocampal neural stem cells (NSCs) integrate inputs from multiple sources to balance quiescence and activation. Notch signaling plays a key role during this process. Here, we report that Lunatic fringe (Lfng), a key modifier of the Notch receptor, is selectively expressed in NSCs. Further, Lfng in NSCs and Notch ligands Delta1 and Jagged1, expressed by their progeny, together influence NSC recruitment, cell cycle duration, and terminal fate. We propose a new model in which Lfng-mediated Notch signaling enables direct communication between a NSC and its descendants, so that progeny can send feedback signals to the 'mother' cell to modify its cell cycle status. Lfng-mediated Notch signaling appears to be a key factor governing NSC quiescence, division, and fate.