We have recently demonstrated that microglia can exert a dual and opposing influence over adult neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) in the hippocampus under different physiological conditions, namely exercise and ageing, and that signalling through the chemokine receptor, CX3CR1, critically contributes towards this (Vukovic et al., 2012, J Neurosci). We have also generated novel evidence that ongoing neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus is critical for new learning but does not play a role in memory recall (Vukovic et al., 2013, J Neurosci).

Our goal is now to elucidate exactly how physiological changes associated with exercise, as well as ageing, influence microglial function and adult neurogenesis. The ultimate goal of our work is to link cellular events to altered behaviour, and to harness the regenerative potential of neural stem/progenitor cells to stimulate optimal cognitive function and treat conditions associated with learning and memory deficits such as dementia.