Our main interest is structural plasticity in relation to stress and disease. In addition to apoptosis, we focus on the regulation of adult neurogenesis and its relevance for depression and dementia. Even though we do have an interest in neurogenesis in other brain areas, particular in the cortex and during early development, our primary focus is the hippocampus since it is not only affected in both these disease conditions but is also very sensitive to stress hormone action and implicated in learning and memory. The hippocampus is furthermore unique as it contains stem cells that continue to generate new neurons in adult animals, including humans, a process called "adult neurogenesis".
Key interest is the functional relevance of adult neurogenesis for brain function. We are also interested in whether blockade of stress effects on neurogenesis can be beneficial in terms of e.g. the recovery from depression. We hypothesise that e.g. stress-induced reductions in the number of newborn neurons will interfere with the role of the hippocampus e.g. in cognition and in negative feedback of the HPA-axis, and we study how such deficits are ameliorated by means of antidepressant treatments.
Paul Lucassen regularly tweets on new developments in neuroscience, stem cell and dementia research; @LucassenPJ