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A balanced evaluation of the evidence for adult neurogenesis in humans: implication for neuropsychiatric disorders


There is a widespread belief that neurogenesis exists in adult human brain, especially in the dentate gyrus, and it is to be maintained and, if possible, augmented with different stimuli including exercise and certain drugs. Here, we examine the evidence for adult human neurogenesis and note important limitations of the methodologies used to study it. A balanced review of the literature and evaluation of the data indicate that adult neurogenesis in human brain is improbable. In fact, in several high-quality recent studies in adult human brain, unlike in adult brains of other species, neurogenesis was not detectable. These findings suggest that the human brain requires a permanent set of neurons to maintain acquired knowledge for decades, which is essential for complex high cognitive functions unique to humans. Thus, stimulation and/or injection of neural stem cells into human brains may not only disrupt brain homeostatic systems, but also disturb normal neuronal circuits. We propose that the focus of research should be the preservation of brain neurons by prevention of damage, not replacement.

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Fig. 1



Adult neurogenesis


Blood–brain barrier


Blood–cerebrospinal fluid barrier




Choroid plexus


Cerebrospinal fluid


Dentate gyrus


Neural stem cell


Substantia nigra pars compacta


Subgranular zone


Ventricular zone–subventricular zone


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The authors wish to thank Michiko Spector for her valuable contribution in the preparation of this manuscript. This work has been made in part possible by MacBrainResource.


NIMH R01-MH113257 to AD.

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Duque, A., Spector, R. A balanced evaluation of the evidence for adult neurogenesis in humans: implication for neuropsychiatric disorders. Brain Struct Funct 224, 2281–2295 (2019).

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  • Adult neurogenesis
  • Neural stem cells
  • Memory
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Homeostasis
  • Neuronal protection
  • DNA repair/methylation