Learning and Memory


An open system for automatic home-cage behavioral analysis and its application to male and female mouse models of Huntington's disease

Behavioural Brain Research



Changes in routine mouse home-cage behavioral activities have been used recently to study alterations of neural circuits caused by genetic and environmental modifications and by drug administration. Nevertheless, automatic assessment of mouse home-cage behaviors remains challenging due to the cost of proprietary systems and to the difficulty in adjusting systems to different monitoring conditions. Here we present software for the automatic quantification of multiple facets of mouse home-cage behaviors, suitable for continuous 24 h video monitoring. We used this program to assess behavioral changes in male and female R6/2 transgenic mouse models of Huntington's disease over a 10-week period. Consistent with the well-known progressive motor coordination deficits of R6/2 mice, their hanging, rearing, and climbing activity declined as the disease progressed. R6/2 mice also exhibited frequent disturbances in their resting activity compared to wild-type mice, suggesting that R6/2 mice are more restless and wakeful. Behavioral differences were seen earlier for male R6/2 mice than female R6/2 mice, and “behavioral signatures” based on multiple behaviors enabled us to distinguish male R6/2 mice from sex- and age-matched wild-type controls as early as 5 weeks of age. These results demonstrate that the automated behavioral classification software that we developed (“OpenCage”) provides a powerful tool for analyzing natural home-cage mouse behaviors, and for constructing behavioral signatures that will be useful for assessing therapeutic strategies. The OpenCage software is available under an open-source GNU General Public License, allowing other users to freely modify and extend it to suit their purposes.


► New software for automatic video-based classification of mouse home-cage behavior. ► Software available under open-source license, allowing free modification by users. ► Motor deficits and circadian disruptions detected in male and female R6/2 mice. ► Characteristic behavioral signatures defined based on multiple facets of behaviors. ► Behavioral signatures distinguished male R6/2 mice from WT as early as 5 weeks.

Hypothesis-Driven Investigations of Diverse Pharmacological Targets in Two Mouse Models of Autism

Autism Research


Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental syndrome diagnosed primarily by persistent deficits in social interactions and communication, unusual sensory reactivity, motor stereotypies, repetitive behaviors, and restricted interests. No FDA-approved medical treatments exist for the diagnostic symptoms of autism. Here we interrogate multiple pharmacological targets in two distinct mouse models that incorporate well-replicated autism-relevant behavioral phenotypes. Compounds that modify inhibitory or excitatory neurotransmission were selected to address hypotheses based on previously published biological abnormalities in each model. Shank3B is a genetic model of a mutation found in autism and Phelan-McDermid syndrome, in which deficits in excitatory neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity have been reported. BTBR is an inbred strain model of forms of idiopathic autism in which reduced inhibitory neurotransmission and excessive mTOR signaling have been reported. The GABA-A receptor agonist gaboxadol significantly reduced repetitive self-grooming in three independent cohorts of BTBR. The TrkB receptor agonist 7,8-DHF improved spatial learning in Shank3B mice, and reversed aspects of social deficits in BTBR. CX546, a positive allosteric modulator of the glutamatergic AMPA receptor, and d-cycloserine, a partial agonist of the glycine site on the glutamatergic NMDA receptor, did not rescue aberrant behaviors in Shank3B mice. The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin did not ameliorate social deficits or repetitive behavior in BTBR mice. Comparison of positive and negative pharmacological outcomes, on multiple phenotypes, evaluated for replicability across independent cohorts, enhances the translational value of mouse models of autism for therapeutic discovery. GABA agonists present opportunities for personalized interventions to treat components of autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res 2019. © 2019 The Authors. Autism Research published by International Society for Autism
Research published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Lay Summary:

Many of the risk genes for autism impair synapses, the connections between nerve cells in the brain. A
drug that reverses the synaptic effects of a mutation could offer a precision therapy. Combining pharmacological and
behavioral therapies could reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with autism. Here we report reductions
in repetitive behavior by a GABA-A receptor agonist, gaboxadol, and improvements in social and cognitive behaviors
by a TrkB receptor agonist, in mouse models of autism.

Dorsolateral septum somatostatin interneurons gate mobility to calibrate context-specific behavioral fear responses

Nature Neuroscience



Adaptive fear responses to external threats rely upon efficient relay of computations underlying contextual encoding to subcortical circuits. Brain-wide analysis of highly coactivated ensembles following contextual fear discrimination identified the dorsolateral septum (DLS) as a relay of the dentate gyrus–CA3 circuit. Retrograde monosynaptic tracing and electrophysiological whole-cell recordings demonstrated that DLS somatostatin-expressing interneurons (SST-INs) receive direct CA3 inputs. Longitudinal in vivo calcium imaging of DLS SST-INs in awake, behaving mice identified a stable population of footshock-responsive SST-INs during contextual conditioning whose activity tracked and predicted non-freezing epochs during subsequent recall in the training context but not in a similar, neutral context or open field. Optogenetic attenuation or stimulation of DLS SST-INs bidirectionally modulated conditioned fear responses and recruited proximal and distal subcortical targets. Together, these observations suggest a role for a potentially hard-wired DLS SST-IN subpopulation as arbiters of mobility that calibrate context-appropriate behavioral fear responses




The invention relates to a neuroprotective composition derived from mesenchymal stem cells , especially a neuro protective composition derived from the primary culture of dental pulp mesenchymal stem cells . The invention also relates to a process for preparing the neuroprotective com position , as well as the medical use of the neuroprotective composition in the treatment of Parkinson ' s disease .


Link to the publication :


Mice with a deletion of the major central myelin protein exhibit hypersensitivity to noxious thermal stimuli: involvement of central sensitization

Neurobiology of Disease, Volume 65, May 2014, Pages 55-68


Null mutations in the gene encoding the major myelin protein of the central nervous system, proteolipid protein 1 (PLP1), cause an X-linked form of spastic paraplegia (SPG2) associated with axonal degeneration. While motor symptoms are the best known manifestations of this condition, its somatosensory disturbances have been described but poorly characterized. We carried out a longitudinal study in an animal model of SPG2 — mice carrying a deletion of the Plp1 gene (Plp-null mice). Plp-null mice exhibited severe early-onset thermal hyperalgesia, in the absence of thermal allodynia. We first performed an electrophysiological testing which showed an early decrease in peripheral and spinal conduction velocities in Plp null mice. Such as the abnormal sensitive behaviors, this slowing of nerve conduction was observed before the development of myelin abnormalities at the spinal level, from 3 months of age, and without major morphological defects in the sciatic nerve. To understand the link between a decrease in nerve velocity and an increased response to thermal stimuli before the appearance of myelin abnormalities, we focused our attention on the dorsal horn of the spinal cord, the site of integration of somatosensory information. Immunohistochemical studies revealed an early-onset activation of astrocytes and microglia that worsened with age, associated later in age with perturbation of the expression of the sensory neuropeptides calcitonin-gene-related peptide and galanin. Taken together, these results represent complementary data supporting the hypothesis that Plp-null mice suffer from ganglionopathy associated with late onset central demyelination but with few peripheral nerve alterations, induced by the glial-cell-mediated sensitization of the spinal cord. The mechanism suggested here could underlie pain experiments in other leukodystrophies as well as in other non-genetic demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Mice with a deletion of the major central myelin protein exhibit hypersensitivity to noxious thermal stimuli: involvement of central sensitization

Bérengère Petita,, Fabrice Giraudetb, Céline Béchona, Laurent Bardinf, Paul Avanb, Odile Boespflug-Tanguyd, Mélina Bégou

Hippocampal Memory Traces Are Differentially Modulated by Experience, Time, and Adult Neurogenesis

Neuron, Volume 83, Issue 1, p189–201, 2 July 2014



  • The DG and CA3 contain memory traces for fear inducing contexts
  • Over time, contextual memories generalize and become less localized in CA3
  • Optical inhibition of context-specific DG or CA3 cells inhibits memory expression
  • Ablating neurogenesis impairs memory traces in CA3, but not in the DG


Memory traces are believed to be ensembles of cells used to store memories. To visualize memory traces, we created a transgenic line that allows for the comparison between cells activated during encoding and expression of a memory. Mice re-exposed to a fear-inducing context froze more and had a greater percentage of reactivated cells in the dentate gyrus (DG) and CA3 than mice exposed to a novel context. Over time, these differences disappeared, in keeping with the observation that memories become generalized. Optogenetically silencing DG or CA3 cells that were recruited during encoding of a fear-inducing context prevented expression of the corresponding memory. Mice with reduced neurogenesis displayed less contextual memory and less reactivation in CA3 but, surprisingly, normal reactivation in the DG. These studies suggest that distinct memory traces are located in the DG and in CA3 but that the strength of the memory is related to reactivation in CA3.

Hippocampal Memory Traces Are Differentially Modulated by Experience, Time, and Adult Neurogenesis

Christine A. Denny, Mazen A. Kheirbek, Eva L. Alba, Kenji F. Tanaka, Rebecca A. Brachman, Kimberly B. Laughman, Nicole K. Tomm, Gergely F. Turi, Attila Losonczy, René Henemail

Part of this publication was performed with ZebraLab and ZebraBox


Impaired Spatial Learning and Memory after Sevoflurane–Nitrous Oxide Anesthesia in Aged Rats Is Associated with Down-Regulated cAMP/CREB Signaling



Neurocognitive deficits arising from anesthetic exposure have recently been debated, while studies have shown that the phosphorylation of cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB) in the hippocampus is critical for long-term memory. To better understand the neural effects of inhalational anesthetics, we studied the behavioral and biochemical changes in aged rats that were exposed to sevoflurane (Sev) and nitrous oxide (N2O) for 4 h. Eighteen-month-old rats were randomly assigned to receive 1.3% sevoflurane and 50% nitrous oxide/50% oxygen or 50% oxygen for 4 h. Spatial learning and memory were tested with the Morris water maze 48 h after exposure, and the results showed that sevoflurane–nitrous oxide exposure induced a significant deficit in spatial learning acquisition and memory retention. Experiments revealed that the cAMP and pCREB levels in the dorsal hippocampus were decreased in rats with anesthetic exposure in comparison with control rats 48 h after anesthesia as well as 15 min after the probe trial, but there were no significant differences in CREB expression. Besides these, the current study also found the DG neurogenesis significantly decreased as well as neuronal loss and neuronal apoptosis increased in the hippocampus of rats exposed to Sev+N2O. The current study demonstrated that down-regulation of cAMP/CREB signaling, decrease of CREB-dependent neurogenesis and neuronal survival in the hippocampus contributed to the neurotoxicity and cognitive dysfunction induced by general anesthesia with sevoflurane–nitrous oxide.


The combination of sevoflurane with nitrous oxide is widely used in clinical anesthesia practice. However, recent studies have raised concerns about the neurotoxicity of inhalational anesthetics and their contribution to postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD) [1][2][3]. Studies indicated that general anesthesia with a combination of nitrous oxide (N2O) and isoflurane (ISO) or sedation with 70% N2O produced lasting impairment in spatial working memory in rats [4][5][6][7][8]. Exposure of neonatal mice to inhaled sevoflurane not only caused persistent learning deficits in fear conditioning later in adulthood, but also abnormal social behaviors resembling autism spectrum disorder [9]. In addition, such exposure induced apoptosis, increased beta-amyloid protein levels [1] and tau phosphorylation through activation of specific kinases, which is considered a potential mechanism of cognitive dysfunction caused by anesthesia [10]. Although detrimental effects of anesthetics on cognitive function have been reported, to our knowledge, no study has investigated the effects of the anesthetic sevoflurane combined with N2O on spatial learning and memory in aged rats.

A current “hot spot” of memory research involves the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB), which has been extensively implicated in learning and memory [11], long term potentiation(LTP) [12], and neuroprotection [13]. It is fairly well established that hippocampus-mediated memory consolidation involves signaling cascades leading to gene transcription of the transcription factor CREB [14]. Phosphorylation/activation of CREB (pCREB) on Ser 133 by cyclic AMP- or Ca2+-dependent protein kinase is critical for long-term memory consolidation[15][16][17]. Inhibition of phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4), an enzyme that catalyzes cAMP hydrolysis, increases cAMP and phosphorylation of CREB [18][19], facilitates induction of hippocampal LTP [20] and enhances memory [21][22]. Consistent with this, several studies have shown that pCREB is also involved in hippocampal neurogenesis, influences the neurotrophic factor-dependent survival of culture neurons and regulates several steps of neurogenesis including proliferation, differentiation, and survival [23][24][25]. To our knowledge, adult neurogenesis in the hippocampus plays a key role in spatial memory function, regulating acquisition of a spatial memory and the subsequent flexible use of spatially precise learning strategies [26][27][28]. Besides the neurogenesis, CREB phosphorylation has also been found to be important in the neurotrophin-mediated neuronal survival [29][30]. Studies showed that ablation of neuronal CREB during development resulted in a massive neuronal apoptosis, and a full CREB-KO mice showed a significant increase in neuronal cell death in dorsal root ganglion neurons [31][32]. Based on these, inhibition of cAMP/CREB induced by anesthetics would lead to the decrease of neurogenesis but increase of neuronal cell death, and further aggravated cognitive dysfunctions.

The aim of the present study is to determine whether anesthesia with sevoflurane combined with N2O in aged rats could induce spatial learning and memory deficit. We also evaluated the cAMP/CREB signaling, neurogenesis levels and cell survival in the hippocampus in an effort to test the hypothesis that general anesthesia by Sev+N2O down-regulates cAMP/CREB pathway, and then suppresses neuronal survival and hippocampal DG neurogenesis, subsequently aggravating learning and memory deficit.

Materials and Methods


The experimental protocol was approved by the Shanghai Medical Experimental Animal Care Commission. Male Sprague Dawley rats were obtained from Shanghai Laboratory Animal Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Aged rats (18 months old) were housed one or two per cage in a climate- and humidity-controlled room in the animal facilities on a 12-h light–dark artificial cycle (lights on at 7:00 AM) with free access to food and water. All experiments were performed during the light phase between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM.

Anesthesia Procedure

Animals (n = 40) were randomized into four groups (10 in each group): Sev+N2O-MWM, in which rats received sevoflurane-N2O and behavioral training(Morris Water Maze, MWM); Sev+N2O, in which rats received anesthesia without behavioral training; Con-MWM, in which rats received control gas and behavioral training; and Con, in which rats received control gas without behavioral training. Rats that were randomly assigned to the anesthesia groups received 1.3% sevoflurane (USP, Baxter, Deerfield, IL, USA) in 50% N2O/50% oxygen for 4 h at a flow rate of approximately 3 L/min in a Plexiglas anesthetizing chamber, which was adjusted to maintain minimum alveolar concentration, oxygen, and carbon dioxide at constant levels. Gases within the anesthetic chamber were monitored continuously, and arterial oxygen saturation was measured noninvasively using a pulse oximeter during anesthesia. Control groups received 50% oxygen in their home cage at identical flow rates as anesthetized animals for 4 h, but arterial oxygen saturation was not measured to prevent the introduction of stress as a confounding variable. All anesthetized rats were breathing spontaneously, and the temperature of the anesthetizing chamber was controlled to maintain rat temperature at 37°C ±0.5°C using a heating pad. Anesthesia was terminated by discontinuing the anesthetics. Rats were allowed to recover for 48 h to avoid the confounding influence of residual anesthetic. Forty-eight hours after anesthesia, rats in the groups without behavioral training were sacrificed, and the remaining rats were tested in the Morris water maze from day 1 to day 6.

Morris Water Maze Task

Spatial memory ability was examined in a water maze that consisted of a swimming pool as described by Morris [33] and adapted for rats. It consisted of a circular tank (160-cm diameter, 50 cm high), filled to a depth of 30 cm with water maintained at 22°C and rendered opaque by the addition of white nontoxic paint. The pool was located in a room uniformly illuminated by a halogen lamp and equipped with various distal cues. Located inside the pool was a removable, circular (12-cm diameter) platform (PF) made of transparent Plexiglas, positioned such that its top surface was 1.0 cm below the surface of the water. The platform, which served as a refuge from the water, was generally located in the center of an arbitrarily defined quadrant of the maze. The quadrant where the PF was located was defined as the target quadrant (E quadrant), and the other three were defined as N, S, W quandrant. The swim paths of the animals were captured by a video camera mounted above the water maze, and the corresponding tracks were recorded and analyzed by a computer tracking system (VideoTrack, Viewpoint).

Behavioral Procedures

During the learning procedure, rats were tested during the light phase between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM. Each rat was given a daily four-trial session (30-min intertrial interval) for six consecutive days. Each trial consisted of releasing the rat into the water facing the outer edge of the pool at one of the quadrants (in a random sequence) and letting the animal escape to the submerged platform. Rats were allowed to swim for a maximum of 60 s in each trial, and the time they spent before reaching the platform (i.e., escape latency) was a measure of acquisition of spatial navigation. If the rat failed to find the platform within 60 s, it was manually guided to the platform, and the escape latency was accepted as 60 s. After climbing onto the platform, the rat was left on it for 15 s and then removed from the pool and returned to its cage beneath a heat lamp to reduce the drop in core temperature. The release point differed in each trial, and different sequences of release points were used from day to day.

Twenty-four hours following the acquisition phase, rats were subjected to a probe trial in which the platform was removed. Starting from the quadrant opposite from the target quadrant where the platform had been located, each rat was allowed to swim for 60 s. Time spent and distances covered in the four round probe zones were measured by the tracking system. Data were collected using the VideoTrack system.

Protein Extraction from Hippocampal Tissue

Five rats in Sev+N2O-MWM group and six rats in Con-MWM group were deeply anesthetized at 15 min after the probe trial, the brains were immediately removed, and both hippocampi from each rat were dissected out. Hippocampi were homogenized by brief sonication in an extract buffer (400 µl) containing 20 mM Tris-HCl (pH 7.4), 150 mM NaCl, 1 mM EDTA, 1 mM EGTA, 1 mM PMSF, 10 µg/ml aprotinin, 1% Triton X-100, and phosphatase inhibitor cocktail 1 and 2 (Sigma, St. Louis, MO). The homogenate was centrifuged at 12,000 g for 10 min at 4°C. The supernatant was removed and stored at −80°C until use.

For the two groups without Morris water maze training, 48 h after Sev+N2O anesthesia or control, hippocampi from five rats per group were extracted and tissues were processed as already described.

Western Blot

Samples (30 µg of protein) were subjected to SDS-PAGE (10% gels) and then transferred from the gel to nitrocellulose membranes using a tank transfer apparatus with buffer containing 25 mM bicine, 25 mM Bis-Tris, and 20% methanol. Membranes were incubated in blocking buffer (TBS/0.1% Tween 20 with 5% nonfat dried milk) for 2 h at room temperature. To control for protein loading, an antibody against β-actin (Santa Cruz Technologies, Santa Cruz, CA) was used. Anti-CREB antibody (1:1000; Cell Signaling Technologies, Danvers, MA), anti-pCREB antibody (1:1000; Cell Signaling Technologies, Danvers, MA) and anti-Bax (1:1000; Santa Cruz Technologies, CA) were added to the buffer solution, and the membranes were incubated overnight at 4°C. The membrane was then washed for 10 min three times in 1× TBS/0.1% Tween 20, and then incubated in HRP-conjugated anti-rabbit IgG (secondary antibody, 1:3000; Cell Signaling) in blocking buffer for 1 h. Subsequently, membranes were washed with 1× TBS/0.1% Tween 20 several times. Blots were visualized with an ECL detection kit (Pierce, IL) and analyzed using Quantity One 1-D Analysis Software (Bio-Rad, San Francisco, CA).

Cyclic AMP Analysis

Cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels were determined using a cAMP Complete ELISA kit (Enzo Life Sciences, USA) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The level of cAMP in the sample was determined based on a standard curve and expressed as pmol/mg per each sample.

Immunohistochemical Procedures

The remaining rats in each group were deeply anesthetized and perfused transcardially with ice-cold phosphate-buffered solution (PBS) and 4% paraformaldehyde (in 0.1 M phosphate buffer, pH 7.4). The brains were then dissected out, and the meninges were carefully removed and then post-fixed in the same fixative overnight, cryoprotected by first sinking in 10% and then in 30% sucrose (in 0.1 M phosphate buffer) at 4°C. Coronal sections (20 µm) were cut on a microtome.


After blocking of nonspecific epitopes with PBS containing 10% donkey serum and 0.5% Triton-100 for 1 h at room temperature and then in the primary antibody : Phospho-CREB Rabbit mAb (1:100, Cell Signaling), NeuN (1:200, Millipore), five sections (20 µm thickness, 80 µm space) of each rat were incubated for 48 h at 4°C. Sections were then washed in PBS and incubated for 4 h with a 1:1000 dilution of anti-rabbit or anti-mouse IgG secondary antibody (Invitrogen, Carlsbad, CA, USA). Nuclear counterstaining was performed with 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI, Sigma) for 30 min at room temperature before three washes with dH2O for 10 min each time and coverslipped. Quantitative analysis was performed using an imaging analysis system (Leica Qwin). Assessment of pCREB staining was performed in CA1 and CA3 area of the dorsal hippocampus, while assessment of NeuN-positive neurons was performed in the CA1 area of the dorsal hippocampus.

Nissl Staining

Sections rinse in tap water and then in distilled water. Stain in 0.1% cresyl violet solution for 3–10 min. Rinse quickly in distilled water. Then differentiate and dehydrate in alcohol then clearing and finally mount with permanent mounting medium. The Nissl body will be stained purple-blue.

After Nissl staining, neuronal cells in the hippocampal were identified from five sections (20 µm thickness, 80 µm apart) per rat (5 rats in each of Sev+N2O group, Con group, and Sev+N2O-MWM group, and 4 rats in Con-MWM group). In each section, the number of neurons was averaged from three random different vision fields in the hippocampal CA1 in each hemisphere (six vision fields per section) under Leica microscope (400× magnification). Only intact neurons with a clearly defined cell body and nucleus were counted.

Double Labeling with NeuN and Annexin V

Apoptosis in hippocampus was detected using an Annexin V- FITC/neuronal marker NeuN doubled staining according to the protocol by Bian Z et al [34]. Brains were sectioned at 12 um thickness and mounted on cover slides followed by air-drying before labeling with Annexin V-FITC. Five Sections (60 µm space) per animal were stained first for Annexin V-FITC using an Annexin V staining Kit (BD Biosciences, CA) according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then blocked with blocking solution as described above, incubated with primary anti-NeuN antibody (1:100, cell signaling) at RT for 2 h and secondary antibody for 1 h. Nuclear countstaining was performed with Hochest (Invitrogen, CA). Assessment of the doubled NeuN and Annexin V- positive neurons was performed in the CA1 subfield of the hippocampus.

Nestin and DCX Immunohistochemistry

Nestin, a type VI intermediate filament protein, is predominantly expressed in neurogenic and myogenic stem cells, and has been known as a marker of neuroepithelial/progenitor cells. Doublecortin (DXC) is a microtubule-associated protein and has been known as a marker of immature neurons.

In this experiment, five sections (12 µm thickness, 60 µm space) per rat (n = 5 in each of Sev+N2O group, Con group, Sev+N2O-MWM group, and n = 4 in Con-MWM group) were analyzed. The protocol for Nestin and DCX staining was essentially the same as for pCREB staining, expect the primary antibody: anti-Nestin (1:100, Boster, Wuhan, China) and anti-DCX (1:100, Epitomics, Burlingame, CA). Analysis of the Nestin and DCX positive neurons was performed in the DG subfield of the hippocampus.

Statistical Analysis

All analyses were performed using SPSS 18.0 for Windows (SPSS, Inc.). Data were submitted to repeated-measures ANOVA (the escape latencies and the swimming speed) and Tukey honestly significant difference test was used for post hoc testing in the Morris water maze. All the other analyses were conducted using Student unpaired two-tailed t test. A value of p<0.05 was considered significant.


Aged Rats Exhibit Impaired Performance on Spatial Learning and Memory After Sevoflurane–N2O Anesthesia

No rat had an episode of hypoxia (defined as SpO2<90%) during the sevoflurane–N2O exposure, and rats did not exhibit floating behavior in our study.

Spatial acquisition for learning in the water maze is presented in Figure 1, which depicts the escape latency to reach the platform. In the first day of spatial acquisition trials, all rats tended to swim around the edges looking for an escape, but after being placed on the platform at the end of each trial, rats gradually learned that there was an escape platform and would venture into the center of the pool to locate it. By the second day’s session, all rats could rapidly locate the platform and the latency was significant less than the first day. A two-way repeated measure ANOVA on the escape latency revealed a significant effect of days for testing the water maze (p<0.001) and a main effect of group (p = 0.016), but no day × group interaction (p= 0.406; Figure 1A) and no effect of speed (p = 0.699; Figure 1B). In the Sev+N2O-MWM group, the impairment was found on day 5 (p = 0.02) and day 6 (p = 0.024), postanesthesia days 7 and 8, respectively, compared to the control rats, which represented the learning deficit after sevoflurane-N2O anesthesia. These results indicated that both the Con-MWM group and Sev+N2O-MWM group exhibited improvement in spatial learning and memory over time during the acquisition phase, but the latter had a longer latency to reach the target quadrant. The lack of effect of speed suggested that the poorer performance of the Sev+N2O-MWM group did not result from lack of motivation or reduced motor ability.

The probe trial conducted 24 h after the last water maze acquisition session was used to assess the spatial memory based on the percentage of time spent in the target quadrant (E quadrant) where platform had been located as well as the distance covered in the E quadrant (Figure 2). Figure 2A shows that Sev+N2O-MWM rats spent significantly less time in the E quadrant compared with Con-MWM rats (p<0.05), and Figure 2B shows that the distances travelled by Con-MWM rats in the E quadrant were more than those by Sev+N2O-MWM rats (p<0.05). Figure 2C shows that Con-MWM rats spent much more time in the E quadrant than the other three ones (all p<0.01), as revealed by a significant effect of quadrant (p<0.01). But unlike the Con-MWM group, the Sev+N2O-MWM rats spent no more time in the E quadrant than in the W quadrant (p = 0.381). Furthermore, t-test comparison confirmed that animals spent significantly more time in the target quadrant than would be expected by chance (p<0.01).


Figure 2. Probe trial conducted after the last water maze acquisition.

(A) The percentage of time spent in the target quadrant. (B) The percentage of distance traveled in the target quadrant. (C) The percentage of time spent in each quadrant. Results are represented as mean ± SEM. *p<0.05, **p<0.01.


The Expression of pCREB was Decreased in the Hippocampus of Aged Rats 48 h after Sevoflurane-N2O Anesthesia

We killed the rats 48 h after anesthesia and measured the pCREB and total CREB levels in the Sev+N2O and Con rats. The Western blot results showed that the immunoreactive bands of pCREB as well as CREB appeared at 43 kDa, and the pCREB levels in the Sev+N2O group were significantly decreased (p = 0.029), but no significant difference in the levels of total CREB was observed (p = 0.923, Figure 3A, 3B). Figure 4A shows the pCREB immunoreactivity (pCREB-ir) distribution in all the subfields of the hippocampus, while Figure 4C shows the pCREB-ir in all the layers of CA1 and CA3 sections. The immunofluorescence revealed that pCREB was exclusively located in neuronal nuclei and there was a significant reduction of pCREB-ir in Sev+N2O rats compared with the Con group. These results implied that sevoflurane-N2O anesthesia would inhibit the activation of CREB 48 h after exposure in aged rats.


Figure 3. Phosphorylated CREB decreased 48-N2O anesthesia as well as 15 min after probe test.

(A) The levels of pCREB in the Sev+N2O group were lower than the Con group, but no differences of CREB levels were detected. (B) Relative levels of pCREB and CREB were quantified (p = 0.029 for pCREB, p = 0.923 for CREB). (C) The pCREB levels in the hippocampus of Sev+N2O-MWM rats were significantly reduced compared to the Con-MWM rats, but CREB expression had no significant difference. (D) Relative levels of pCREB and CREB were quantified (p = 0.01 for pCREB, p = 0.58 for CREB). *p<0.05, **p<0.01.


Figure 4. pCREB immunoreactivity (pCREB-ir) distribution in all the subfields of hippocampus and exclusively located in the neuronal nuclei. The pCREB-ir decreased both 48 h after sevoflurane-N2O anesthesia and 15 min after probe test.

(A) There was a derease of pCREB-ir in all the subfields of the hippocampus in Sev+N2O rats compared with the Con group. (B) The pCREB-ir significantly decreased in the Sev+N2O-MWM group compared with Con-MWM group. (C) pCREB-ir both in CA1 and CA3 areas decreased in the exposed rats compared with controls. Magnification: ×200 for (A), ×400 for (B).


Expression of pCREB in the Hippocampus of Aged Rats after Morris Water Maze

Both the Sev+N2O-MWM group and the control group were sacrificed 15 min after the probe trial on day7, and we compared the levels of pCREB between groups by Western blot. The results showed that the pCREB levels in the Sev+N2O-MWM rats were significant lower than those in the Con-MWM rats, but no significant difference of total CREB was detected (Figure 3C, 3D).

The immunofluorescence results showed that pCREB was higher in the Con-MWM group than in the Con group (Figure 4A, 4C), which was in accordance with our previous study showing that the retrieval of spatial memory could activate the phosphorylation of CREB [35]. However, the levels of pCREB in the Sev+N2O-MWM rats were significantly lower than those in the Con-MWM rats, suggesting that the decrease of pCREB expression induced by general anesthesia with Sev+N2O was sustained until at least the end of the behavioral procedures (Figure 4B, 4C).

cAMP Levels

CREB phosphorylation can be achieved by a number of up-stream signaling cascades, among which a pathway is triggered by cAMP accumulation to cause liberation of catalytic subunits of cAMP – dependent protein kinase A (PKA) [36]. Because general anesthesia induced the decrease of pCREB expression, we assessed whether it was related to the cAMP pathway. The ELISA results revealed that the cAMP levels decreased by 65% in hippocampus of Sev+N2O rats compared to the Con rats (p = 0.02, Figure 5A). Similarly, in the Sev+N2O-MWM group, there was a 58% decrease of cAMP levels compared to Con-MWM (p = 0.048, Figure 5B). Thus, the results suggested that general anesthesia with Sev+N2O for 4 hours decreased the cAMP levels and in turn suppressed the cAMP/CREB signaling.


Figure 5. cAMP concentration in the hippocampus of all the groups.

(A) cAMP levels decreased by 65% in hippocampus of Sev+N2O rats compared to the Con rats (p = 0.02). (B) cAMP levels decreased by 58% in Sev+N2O-MWM compared to Con-MWM (p = 0.048).


Neuronal Cell Death Increased after Sev+N2O General Anesthesia

To understand whether cAMP/pCREB down-regulation affect the neuronal survival after Sev+N2O anesthesia, we evaluated the neuronal survival by Nissl staining and NeuN staining. Nissl staining is used for the detection of Nissl Body in the cytoplasm of neurons and identifying the basic neuronal structure. Quantitative analysis of Nissl-positive cells in hippocampal CA1 showed a neuronal loss in exposed rats compared with their controls (p<0.05, Figure 6A, B). Otherwise, expression of NeuN, a neuronal marker, also decreased in the Sev+N2O group as well as Sev+N2O-MWM group (Figure 6C). To confirm the neuronal loss is due to the neuronal apoptosis, double labeled of Annexin V-FITC and NeuN was performed.Figure 7B shows that the total number of Annexin V-positive cells in the hippocampal CA1 significantly increased in the rats exposed to anesthetics compared with the controls. However, most of the Annexin V-positive cells also stained positive for the neuronal marker NeuN. As loss of CREB triggered Bax-dependent apoptosis [31], it is possible that inhibition of CREB signaling by general anesthesia induces the Bax overexpression and contributes to the neuronal apoptosis. To verify it, we tested the Bax protein levels by Western Blot and found that the Bax expression significantly increased in the Sev+N2O group compared with Con group (Figure 7A). However, the Bax expression was only slightly higher in Sev+N2O-MWM rats than in Con-MWM rats (Figure 7A).


Figure 6. More neuronal loss in the CA1 subfield of hippocampus in exposed rats than control rats by Nissl staining and NeuN staing.

(A) Nissl-positve cells in CA1 subfield decreased in the Sev+N2O group and Sev+N2O-MWM group compared with their respective controls. (B) The number of Nissl-postive cells was quantified. The number of neurons in each section was averaged from three random different vision fields in the CA1 area of hippocampus per hemisphere (six vision fields per section) under 40×objective Leica microscope. 5 sections per rat were analyzed (n = 5 in each of Sev+N2O, Con and Sev+N2O-MWM group, and n = 4 in Con-MWM group. p = 0.0286, 0.016, respectively). (C) Expression of the mature neuronal marker NeuN in CA1 subfield decreased in exposed rats compared with controls. Magnification: ×400 for (A), ×200 for (C).


Figure 7. Expression of Bax was detected by Western Blot and neuronal apoptosis was evaluated by doubled staining with Annexin V-FITC and NeuN.

(A) Bax expression was significantly increased in the Sev+N2O group compared with Con group, but only slightly increased in the Sev+N2O-MWM compared with Con-MWM group. (B) Doubled staining with Annexin V-FITC and NeuN showed that there were more neurons underwent apoptosis in the CA1 subfield of hippocampus in Sev+N2O and Sev+N2O-MWM rats. Magnification: ×200 for (B).


Neurogenesis in the Hippocampal DG

As training on hippocampus-dependent tasks, such as the spatial Morris water maze, increases hippocampal neurogenesis [37]. Decreasing hippocampal neurogenesis has been demonstrated to impair long-term spatial memory [38]. We examined the possibility that the spatial learning and memory impairments in aged rats after general anesthesia with Sev+N2O might be related to a deficiency in DG neurogenesis due to the downregulation of cAMP/pCREB. We analyzed the differences in expression of various neuronspecific markers related to different neuronal stages, Nestin used as a marker of neuroepithelial/progenitor cells and DCX as immature neuronal marker. The immunofluorescence staining results showed that less neurons expressed Nestin in the Sev+N2O group as well as Sev+N2O-MWM group (Figure 8A). Moreover, we found less DCX-positive cells in the Sev+N2O-MWM group compared with Con-MWM group (Figure 8B). These results indicated that neuronal progenitor proliferation and differentiation was inhibited.


Figure 8. Expression of Nestin and DCX in DG area of hippocampus was detected by Immunofluorescence.

(A) Nestin-postive cells were less in the exposed rats than controls. (B) DCX-positive cells decreased in the Sev+N2O-MWM group compared with Con-MWM group. Magnification: ×200 for (A) and (B).



With the coming of the aging society, more and more surgical procedures currently performed are in elderly patients. Patients with an age≥60 years have an increased incidence of POCD, which is associated with an increased mortality [39][40][41]. The aged brain might be more susceptible to anesthetic-mediated changes, as the aged brain is different from the younger in several respects, including size, distribution and type of neurotransmitters, metabolic function, and capacity for plasticity [42]. As sevoflurane and N2O are commonly used anesthetic agents in clinical practice, the current study focused on the behavioral and biochemical effects to aged rats by general anesthesia with sevoflurane and N2O. We first found that 18-month-old rats developed cognitive deficits after exposure to 1.3% sevoflurane combined with 50% N2O for 4 h without surgery. It was unlikely that this impairment was caused by residual anesthetic because we did not perform the MWM training until 48 h after anesthesia. Culley et al [8]showed that aged rats subjected to ISO+N2O anesthesia exhibited poor performance on a spatial memory task for at least 2 weeks after general anesthesia, and the induced impairment may have been worse than ISO alone. Moreover, a 4-h exposure of aged rats to N2O alone has been reported to cause learning impairment up to 2 weeks [4]. Recent studies also showed that exposure to sevoflurane increased β-amyloid protein levels, which could induce further apoptosis and contribute to or cause POCD [1][3][43][44][45]. Sevoflurane at doses from 0.5% to 2.6% administered either during or immediately after a learning task has been shown to inhibit memory retention [46][47][48][49][50]. Although the inhalation anesthesia–POCD model has been well documented, it is debated. Rammes et al [51] reported ISO enhanced long-term potentiation (LTP) in CA1 hippocampal neurons and improved hippocampus-dependent cognitive performance, while a recent study demonstrated that 4 h of sevoflurane exposure did not impair acquisition learning or retention memory and might even improve learning in young adult or aged rat [52]. Different methodologies, including different anesthetic, dosage, rat strain, duration of exposure, outcome measurements, and anesthetic carrier gas may have contributed to these contradictory results. In the current study, we used 1.3% sevoflurane and 50% N2O as the anesthetics and 50% O2 for the carrier gas, which could be one of the factors that contributed to the differences.

The precise mechanism of molecular biology of POCD is still not very clear so far. Our current study tried to demonstrate the effects of anesthetics (i.e., sevoflurane, N2O) on biochemical changes associated with cognitive dysfunction. Current hypotheses attribute the neurocognitive deficits produced by anesthetics to neurotoxic effects, endogenous neurodegenerative, neuroinflammatory mechanisms, or age-sensitive suppression of neuronal stem cell proliferation and differentiation [53][54][55]. Moreover, brain-derived neurotrophic factor has been implicated in the neurotoxicity of N2O, midazolam, and ISO [56]. As mentioned previously, pCREB promotes the transcription of immediate-early gene mRNA, which is then translated into proteins. These proteins are necessary for the maintenance of LTP and long-term memory, while spatial learning has been shown to increase CREB phosphorylation in the dorsal hippocampus [12][57][58][59][60][61]. In the current study, we measured the pCREB and CREB levels in the hippocampus 48 h after exposure but before water maze test, as well as 15 min after the probe trial. The results found that pCREB levels in the Sev+N2O and Sev+N2O-MWM group were significantly lower than their respective controls. Our results suggested that sevoflurane-N2O anesthesia decreased pCREB levels and lasted until at least the probe trial finished, which would affect the capacity of pCREB’s maintenance of LTP and long-term memory. However, we found the decrease of pCREB could be due to the phosphorylation of preexisting CREB, because there was no difference in total CREB levels among groups.

To identity the upstream regulators of CREB-signaling, studies have demonstrated that NMDA-receptor activation, BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) signaling or growth factor signaling can trigger intracellular signaling cascades that phosphorylate CREB at Ser133, which is a rate-limiting step in the CREB-signaling [62][63]. Among various signaling pathways, the most thoroughly pathway is to stimulate adenylyl cyclase and accumulate second messenger cAMP to activate PKA and lead to the release of the catalytical subunit of PKA which then shuttles to the nucleus and phosphorylates CREB [64]. In the current study, we found the cAMP levels decreased in the hippocampus of Sev+N2O group and Sev+N2O-MWM group compared to their respective control group. The above evidence indicated that general anesthesia with Sev+N2O down-regulated the cAMP/CREB signaling and further affected its downstream targets.

New neurons are produced each day through the process of neurogenesis in the hippocampus, while physical training can modify the process by increasing the number of new cells that mature into functional neurons in the adult brain and improve the cognitive ability including learning and memory [65]. In the past years, researchers have found that rats exposure to isoflurane on P7 showed decreased neuronal progenitor proliferation with deficits in fear conditioning and spatial reference task, and P14 rats exposed to isoflurane showed a decreased neurogenesis in hippocampus and impaired cognitive function compared with controls [66]. It has previously been noted that CREB signaling is essential for survival and morphological development of newborn neurons, and for maintenance of expression of proteins involved in neuronal development and the control of neurogenic transcriptional programs, while activation of cAMP signaling promotes the proliferation and morphological maturation of newborn cells [23][24]. The in vivo function of CREB-signaling in adult neurogenesis has been examined using pharmacological, genetic and retrovirus-mediated gene transfer [67]. Thus, examination of DG neurogenesis may provide some information about how anesthetics cause learning and memory deficits via downregulation of CREB signaling. We found that the down-expression of pCREB in the hippocampus of rats exposed to Sev+N2O anesthesia disrupted the DG neurogenesis and exacerbated the cognitive dysfunction. This was underscored, at least in part, by our observation that the number of Nestin-positve cells and Dcx-positive cells was less in the exposed rats compared to the controls, which indicated the decrease of neuronal progenitor proliferation, differentiation and maturation.

Researchers have shown that CREB DNA binding activity and phosphorylation of CREB are necessary for nerve growth factor (NGF)-dependent survival of sympathetic neurons. Bonni et al[29] indicated that CREB may also have a function in the regulation of neuronal survival in the developing central nervous system. Furthermore, experiments using genetic transfer have demonstrated that CREB is a key executor of neurotrophin-mediated cell survival and loss of CREB triggers Bax-dependent apoptosis in vivo [31]. These findings demonstrated a critical role for CREB and CREB-dependent gene expression in supporting neuronal survival. In our work, we found an increase of neuronal loss in the exposed rats compared with controls. Annexin V-FITC by immunofluorescence and Bax expression by Westren blot revealed the neuronal loss was due to the trigger of neuronal apoptosis. Importantly, double staining of Annexin V and the neuronal marker NeuN indicated that most of the apoptotic cells in these structures were indeed neurons. In conjunction with the role of CREB in DG neurogenesis, these findings partly support our prediction that downregulation of cAMP/CREB induced by general anesthesia leads to a decrease of the neurogenesis in hippocampus as well as an increase of neuronal apoptosis, both of which play critical roles in the deficit of learning and memory after Sev+N2O exposure.

In summary, we found that general anesthesia with 1.3% sevoflurane and 50% N2O impaired hippocampus-dependent learning and memory in aged rats. To explore the mechanism of neurotoxicity induced by Sev+N2O, we found the downregulation of cAMP/CREB signaling which was implicated in the learning and memory, long term potentiation, and neuroprection. Furthermore, we observed the decrease of DG neurogenesis and neuronal survival in the hippocampus, both of which highly depended on the normal activation of CREB signaling. Thus, the pathway of cAMP/CREB-neurogensis/neuronal apoptosis contributed to the neurotoxicity and impairment of learning and memory induced by Sev+N2O. The study provided some theoretical basis for the further study of neurotrophin factors, which could prevent POCD in elderly patients and decrease the postoperative morbidity and mortality.


Impaired Spatial Learning and Memory after Sevoflurane–Nitrous Oxide Anesthesia in Aged Rats Is Associated with Down-Regulated cAMP/CREB Signaling

Wan-Xia Xiong , Guo-Xia Zhou , Bei Wang, Zhang-Gang Xue, Lu Wang, Hui-Chuan Sun, Sheng-Jin Ge

Nicotine chronic tolerance development and withdrawal in the planaria (Schmidtea mediterranea)

Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior


Nicotine behavioral pharmacology: planaria

• Planaria were exposed to different concentrations of nicotine during 10 days.
• Tests measured motility under nicotine with and without cues paired with nicotine.
• We saw tolerance to nicotine, but no conditioned compensatory responses.
• Mecamylamine attenuated the effect of nicotine and blocked tolerance.
• The results are consistent with a habituation explanation of tolerance.

Nicotine and behavioural changes

Chronic nicotine exposure reduces sensitivity to the effects of nicotine, which then results in behavioural changes and tolerance development. In the planaria, a valuable first-stage preclinical model for addictive behaviour, acute nicotine administration has been shown to steadily alter the motility of the animals, a result that has been interpreted as evidence of tolerance and withdrawal effects; however, chronic exposure - typically regarded as a condition for the development of tolerance - and the role of the contextual cues have not been systematically assessed. The present study assessed the acute and chronic effects of nicotine on the motility of planarians (Schmidtea mediterranea). The animals in the experimental groups received long chronic exposure to nicotine (ten daily 30 min exposures); a control group was exposed to water in the same context but in the absence of the drug. The motility of the animals was closely monitored on every exposure. Following this phase, all the animals were subject to three different tests: in the presence of the exposure context (without the drug, Test 1); in the presence of nicotine in the exposure context (Test 2); and in the presence of the drug in a novel context (Test 3). Exposure to nicotine consistently reduced motility; the motility in the presence of nicotine increased with repeated exposures to the drug, an instance of tolerance development. Tolerance development was dependent on nicotinic receptor activation, because it was blocked by the co-administration of mecamylamine. However, this tolerance was found to be independent of the contextual cues where the effects of the drug had been experienced. The results are discussed by reference to the existent theories of tolerance development to drugs.


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Differential Brain, Cognitive and Motor Profiles Associated with Partial Trisomy. Modeling Down Syndrome in Mice

Springer Link



We hypothesize that the trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) is the additive and interactive outcome of the triple copy of different regions of HSA21. Because of the small number of patients with partial trisomy 21, we addressed the question in the Mouse in which three chromosomal regions located on MMU10, MMU17 and MMU16 carries almost all the HSA21 homologs. Male mice from four segmental trisomic strains covering the D21S17-ETS2 (syntenic to MMU16) were examined with an exhaustive battery of cognitive tests, motor tasks and MRI and compared with TS65Dn that encompasses D21S17-ETS2. None of the four strains gather all the impairments (measured by the effect size) of TS65Dn strain. The 152F7 strain was close to TS65Dn for motor behavior and reference memory and the three other strains 230E8, 141G6 and 285E6 for working memory. Episodic memory was impaired only in strain 285E6. The hippocampus and cerebellum reduced sizes that were seen in all the strains indicate that trisomy 21 is not only a hippocampus syndrome but that it results from abnormal interactions between the two structures.



Short-term treatment with flumazenil restores long-term object memory in a mouse model of Down syndrome

Science Direct



Down syndrome (DS) is a common genetic cause of intellectual disability yet no pro-cognitive drug therapies are approved for human use. Mechanistic studies in a mouse model of DS (Ts65Dn mice) demonstrate that impaired cognitive function is due to excessive neuronal inhibitory tone. These deficits are normalized by chronic, short-term low doses of GABAA receptor (GABAAR) antagonists in adult animals, but none of the compounds investigated are approved for human use. We explored the therapeutic potential of flumazenil (FLUM), a GABAAR antagonist working at the benzodiazepine binding site that has FDA approval. Long-term memory was assessed by the Novel Object Recognition (NOR) testing in Ts65Dn mice after acute or short-term chronic treatment with FLUM. Short-term, low, chronic dose regimens of FLUM elicit long-lasting (>1 week) normalization of cognitive function in both young and aged mice. FLUM at low dosages produces long lasting cognitive improvements and has the potential of fulfilling an unmet therapeutic need in DS.



In vivo pharmacological profile of S 38093, a novel histamine H3 receptor inverse agonist

Science Direct



S 38093, a novel histamine H3 receptor inverse agonist, was tested in a series of neurochemical and behavioral paradigms designed to evaluate its procognitive and arousal properties.

In intracerebral microdialysis studies performed in rats, S 38093 dose-dependently increased histamine extracellular levels in the prefrontal cortex and facilitated cholinergic transmission in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of rats after acute and chronic administration (10 mg/kg i.p.).

Acute oral administration of S 38093 at 0.1 mg/kg significantly improved spatial working memory in rats in the Morris water maze test. The compound also displayed cognition enhancing properties in the two-trial object recognition task in rats, in a natural forgetting paradigm at 0.3 and 1 mg/kg p.o. and in a scopolamine-induced memory deficit situation at 3 mg/kg p.o. The property of S 38093 to promote episodic memory was confirmed in a social recognition test in rats at 0.3 and 1 mg/kg i.p.

Arousal properties of S 38093 were assessed in freely moving rats by using electroencephalographic recordings: at 3 and 10 mg/kg i.p., S 38093 significantly reduced slow wave sleep delta power and induced at the highest dose a delay in sleep latency. S 38093 at 10 mg/kg p.o. also decreased the barbital-induced sleeping time in rats.

Taken together these data indicate that S 38093, a novel H3 inverse agonist, displays cognition enhancing at low doses and arousal properties at higher doses in rodents.



Neurobehavioral effects of lithium in the rat: Investigation of the effect/concentration relationships and the contribution of the poisoning pattern

Science Direct



Severity of lithium poisoning depends on the ingested dose, previous treatment duration and renal function. No animal study has investigated neurobehavioral differences in relation to the lithium poisoning pattern observed in humans, while differences in lithium pharmacokinetics have been reported in lithium-pretreated rats mimicking chronic poisonings with enhanced brain accumulation in rats with renal failure. Our objectives were: 1)-to investigate lithium-related effects in overdose on locomotor activity, anxiety-like behavior, spatial recognition memory and anhedonia in the rat; 2)-to model the relationships between lithium-induced effects on locomotion and plasma, erythrocyte, cerebrospinal fluid and brain concentrations previously obtained according to the poisoning pattern. Open-field, elevated plus-maze, Y-maze and sucrose consumption tests were used. In acutely lithium-poisoned rats, we observed horizontal (p < 0.001) and vertical hypolocomotion (p < 0.0001), increased anxiety-like behavior (p < 0.05) and impaired memory (p < 0.01) but no altered hedonic status. Horizontal (p < 0.01) and vertical (p < 0.001) hypolocomotion peaked more markedly 24 h after lithium injection and was more prolonged in acute-on-chronically vs. acutely lithium-poisoned rats. Hypolocomotion in chronically lithium-poisoned rats with impaired renal function did not differ from acutely poisoned rats 24 h after the last injection. Interestingly, hypolocomotion/concentration relationships best fitted a sigmoidal Emax model in acute poisoning and a linear regression model linked to brain lithium in acute-on-chronic poisoning. In conclusion, lithium overdose alters rat behavior and consistently induces hypolocomotion which is more marked and prolonged in repeatedly lithium-treated rats. Our data suggest that differences between poisoning patterns regarding lithium-induced hypolocomotion are better explained by the duration of lithium exposure than by its brain accumulation.



NACHO Mediates Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Function throughout the Brain

Cell Reports



Neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) participate in diverse aspects of brain function and mediate behavioral and addictive properties of nicotine. Neuronal nAChRs derive from combinations of α and β subunits, whose assembly is tightly regulated. NACHO was recently identified as a chaperone for α7-type nAChRs. Here, we find NACHO mediates assembly of all major classes of presynaptic and postsynaptic nAChR tested. NACHO acts at early intracellular stages of nAChR subunit assembly and then synergizes with RIC-3 for receptor surface expression. NACHO knockout mice show profound deficits in binding sites for α-bungarotoxin, epibatidine, and conotoxin MII, illustrating essential roles for NACHO in proper assembly of α7-, α4β2-, and α6-containing nAChRs, respectively. By contrast, GABAA receptors are unaffected consistent with NACHO specifically modulating nAChRs. NACHO knockout mice show abnormalities in locomotor and cognitive behaviors compatible with nAChR deficiency and underscore the importance of this chaperone for physiology and disease associated with nAChRs.



Maternal high-fat diet leads to hippocampal and amygdala dendritic remodeling in adult male offspring

Journal of International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology



Early-life exposure to calorie-dense food, rich in fat and sugar, contributes to the increasing prevalence of obesity and its associated adverse cognitive and emotional outcomes at adulthood. It is thus critical to determine the impact of such nutritional environment on neurobehavioral development. In animals, maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption impairs hippocampal function in adult offspring, but its impact on hippocampal neuronal morphology is unknown. Moreover, the consequences of perinatal HFD exposure on the amygdala, another important structure for emotional and cognitive processes, remain to be established. In rats, we show that adult offspring from dams fed with HFD (45% from fat, throughout gestation and lactation) exhibit atrophy of pyramidal neuron dendrites in both the CA1 of the hippocampus and the basolateral amygdala (BLA). Perinatal HFD exposure also impairs conditioned odor aversion, a task highly dependent on BLA function, without affecting olfactory or malaise processing. Neuronal morphology and behavioral alterations elicited by perinatal HFD are not associated with body weight changes but with higher plasma leptin levels at postnatal day 15 and at adulthood. Taken together, our results suggest that perinatal HFD exposure alters hippocampal and amygdala neuronal morphology which could participate to memory alterations at adulthood.



On the transition from reconsolidation to extinction of contextual fear memories

Learning & Memory



Retrieval of an associative memory can lead to different phenomena. Brief reexposure sessions tend to trigger reconsolidation, whereas more extended ones trigger extinction. In appetitive and fear cued Pavlovian memories, an intermediate “null point” period has been observed where neither process seems to be engaged. Here we investigated whether this phenomenon extends to contextual fear memory. Adult rats were subjected to a contextual fear conditioning paradigm, reexposed to the context 2 d later for 3, 5, 10, 20, or 30 min, with immediate injections of MK-801 or saline following reexposure, and tested on the following day. We observed a significant effect of MK-801 with the 3- and 30-min sessions, impairing reconsolidation and extinction, respectively. However, it did not have significant effects with 5-, 10-, or 20-min sessions, even though freezing decreased from reexposure to test. Further analyses indicated that this is not likely to be due to a variable transition point at the population level. In conclusion, the results show that in contextual fear memories there is a genuine “null point” between the parameters that induce reconsolidation and extinction, as defined by the effects of MK-801, although NMDA receptor-independent decreases in freezing can still occur in these conditions.




miR-124 downregulates BACE 1 and alters autophagy in APP/PS1 transgenic mice



One role of BACE 1 (Beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme 1) is to cleave the sequential amyloid precursor protein (APP) into β-Amyloid (Aβ), the accumulation of which is an important participant in the formation of the amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Our previous study showed BACE 1, the potential functional downstream target of miR-124, to be connected to cell death in AD cell models. Recent studies have shown that autophagy is altered in AD, however, as to whether miR-124 is involved in this alteration is not clear. In this study, 7-month-old APP/PS1 transgenic mice were transfected with miR-124 lentiviral vectors, injected bilaterally into the dentate gyrus (DG) of mice hippocampi. Following 7 days of recovery, both behavior and biochemical pathology tests were implemented. The results demonstrated learning ability improvement and specific AD pathology alleviation. Meanwhile there was down-regulation of Bcl-2 to Bax ratio expression, increase in Beclin-1 and decreases in expression of LC3II, Atg5 and p62/SQSTMl. In view of this, we hypothesis that miR-124 conducts its neuroprotective effect through BACE 1 by regulation of autophagic pathways.



Neuroinflammation, myelin and behavior: Temporal patterns following mild traumatic brain injury in mice

PLoS ONE 12(9): e0184811.



Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results in white matter injury (WMI) that is associated with neurological deficits. Neuroinflammation originating from microglial activation may participate in WMI and associated disorders. To date, there is little information on the time courses of these events after mild TBI. Therefore we investigated (i) neuroinflammation, (ii) WMI and (iii) behavioral disorders between 6 hours and 3 months after mild TBI. For that purpose, we used experimental mild TBI in mice induced by a controlled cortical impact. (i) For neuroinflammation, IL-1b protein as well as microglial phenotypes, by gene expression for 12 microglial activation markers on isolated CD11b+ cells from brains, were studied after TBI. IL-1b protein was increased at 6 hours and 1 day. TBI induced a mixed population of microglial phenotypes with both pro-inflammatory, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory markers from 6 hours to 3 days post-injury. At 7 days, microglial activation was completely resolved. (ii) Three myelin proteins were assessed after TBI on ipsi- and contralateral corpus callosum, as this structure is enriched in white matter. TBI led to an increase in 2',3'-cyclic-nucleotide 3'-phosphodiesterase, a marker of immature and mature oligodendrocyte, at 2 days post-injury; a bilateral demyelination, evaluated by myelin basic protein, from 7 days to 3 months post-injury; and an increase in myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein at 6 hours and 3 days post-injury. Transmission electron microscopy study revealed various myelin sheath abnormalities within the corpus callosum at 3 months post-TBI. (iii) TBI led to sensorimotor deficits at 3 days post-TBI, and late cognitive flexibility disorder evidenced by the reversal learning task of the Barnes maze 3 months after injury. These data give an overall invaluable overview of time course of neuroinflammation that could be involved in demyelination and late cognitive disorder over a time-scale of 3 months in a model of mild TBI. This model could help to validate a pharmacological strategy to prevent post-traumatic WMI and behavioral disorders following mild TBI.



Neuropeptide S overcomes short term memory deficit induced by sleep restriction by increasing prefrontal cortex activity

European Neuropsychopharmacology



Sleep restriction (SR) impairs short term memory (STM) that might be related to different processes. Neuropeptide S (NPS), an endogenous neuropeptide that improves short term memory, activates arousal and decreases anxiety is likely to counteract the SR-induced impairment of STM. The objective of the present study was to find common cerebral pathways in sleep restriction and NPS action in order to ultimately antagonize SR effect on memory.

The STM was assessed using a spontaneous spatial alternation task in a T-maze. C57-Bl/6 J male mice were distributed in 4 groups according to treatment (0.1 nmol of NPS or vehicle intracerebroventricular injection) and to 20 h-SR. Immediately after behavioural testing, regional c-fos immunohistochemistry was performed and used as a neural activation marker for spatial short term memory (prefrontal cortex, dorsal hippocampus) and emotional reactivity (basolateral amygdala and ventral hippocampus). Anxiety-like behaviour was assessed using elevated-plus maze task.

Results showed that SR impaired short term memory performance and decreased neuronal activation in cingular cortex.NPS injection overcame SR-induced STM deficits and increased neuronal activation in infralimbic cortex. SR spared anxiety-like behavior in the elevated-plus maze. Neural activation in basolateral nucleus of amygdala and ventral hippocampus were not changed after SR.In conclusion, the present study shows that NPS overcomes SR-induced STM deficits by increasing prefrontal cortex activation independently of anxiety-like behaviour.



Effects of biflavonoids from Garcinia madruno on a triple transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease

Pharmacological Research



Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that is pathologically characterized by the deposition of β-amyloid (βA) peptides in senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. Flavonoids have recently been used to prevent and treat a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, but little is known about bioflavonoids. In this study, we evaluate whether a biflavonoid fraction (BF) exerts neuroprotective effects on an aged triple transgenic mouse mode of AD (3xTg-AD). Then, 21–24-month-old 3xTg AD mice were i.p. injected with 25 mg/kg of a BF from Garcinia madruno composed of morelloflavone (65%), volkensiflavone (12%), GB 2a (11%), fukugiside (6%) and amentoflavone (0.4%) every 48 h for 3 months. The BF treatment reduced βA deposition in different regions of the brain (the hippocampus, entorhinal cortex and amygdala), reduced βA1-40 and βA1-42 levels, BACE1-mediated cleavage of APP (CTFβ), tau pathology, astrogliosis and microgliosis in the brains of aged 3xTg-AD mice. Although the BF treatment weakly improved learning, animals treated with BF spent more time in the open arms of the elevated plus maze test and displayed greater risk assessment behavior than the control groups. In summary, the BF reverses histopathological hallmarks and reduces emotional disorders in the 3xTg-AD mouse model, suggesting that the biflavonoids from G. madruno represent a potential natural therapeutic option for AD if its bioavailability is improved.



Environmental conditions strongly affect brain plasticity




During development, experience continuously interacts with genetic information to shape and optimize neuronal circuits and behaviour. Therefore, environmental conditions have a powerful impact on the brain. To date, accumulating evidence shows that raising animals in a so-called “enriched environment” elicits remarkable effects on the brain across molecular, anatomical, and functional levels when compared to animals raised in a “standard cage” environment. In our article, we provide a brief review of the field and illustrate the different results of “enriched” versus standard cage-raised rodents with examples from visual system plasticity. We also briefly discuss parallel studies of enrichment effects in humans. Collectively, these data highlight that results should always be considered in the context of the animals’ environment.

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The selective reversible FAAH inhibitor, SSR411298, restores the development of maladaptive behaviors to acute and chronic stress in rodents



Enhancing endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) signaling has been considered as a potential strategy
for the treatment of stress-related conditions. Fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) represents
the primary degradation enzyme of the eCB anandamide (AEA), oleoylethanolamide (OEA) and
palmitoylethanolamide (PEA). This study describes a potent reversible FAAH inhibitor, SSR411298.
The drug acts as a selective inhibitor of FAAH, which potently increases hippocampal levels of AEA,
OEA and PEA in mice. Despite elevating eCB levels, SSR411298 did not mimic the interoceptive state
or produce the behavioral side-effects (memory deficit and motor impairment) evoked by direct-acting
cannabinoids. When SSR411298 was tested in models of anxiety, it only exerted clear anxiolytic-like
effects under highly aversive conditions following exposure to a traumatic event, such as in the mouse
defense test battery and social defeat procedure. Results from experiments in models of depression
showed that SSR411298 produced robust antidepressant-like activity in the rat forced-swimming test
and in the mouse chronic mild stress model, restoring notably the development of inadequate coping
responses to chronic stress. This preclinical profile positions SSR411298 as a promising drug candidate
to treat diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which involves the development of maladaptive
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Topographical memory analyzed in mice using the Hamlet Test, a novel complex maze

Neurobiology of Learning and Memory



The Hamlet test is a novel complex environment for testing topographic memory in mice.

Exploration and memory differ in different mouse strains but not gender.

The hippocampus-subiculum-parahippocampal gyrus axis and dopaminergic structures are activated.

Training increased hippocampal neurogenesis (cell proliferation and neuronal maturation).

Topographical disorientation was measured in the Hamlet test using a pharmacological model of Alzheimer's disease.


The Hamlet test is an innovative device providing a complex environment for testing topographic memory in mice. Animals were trained in groups for weeks in a small village with a central agora, streets expanding from it towards five functionalized houses, where they can drink, eat, hide, run, interact with a stranger mouse. Memory was tested by depriving mice from water or food and analyzing their ability to locate the Drink/Eat house. Exploration and memory were analysed in different strains, gender, and after different training periods and delays. After 2 weeks training, differences in exploration patterns were observed between strains, but not gender. Neuroanatomical structures activated by training, identified using FosB/ΔFosB immunolabelling, showed an involvement of the hippocampus-subiculum-parahippocampal gyrus axis and dopaminergic structures. Training increased hippocampal neurogenesis (cell proliferation and neuronal maturation) and modified the amnesic efficacy of muscarinic or nicotinic cholinergic antagonists. Moreover, topographical disorientation in Alzheimer's disease was addressed using intracerebroventricular injection of amyloid β25-35 peptide in trained mice. When retested after 7 days, Aβ25-35-treated mice showed memory impairment. The Hamlet test specifically allows analysis of topographical memory in mice, based on complex environment. It offers an innovative tool for various ethological or pharmacological research needs. For instance, it allows to examine topographical disorientation, a warning sign in Alzheimer's disease.


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Response of zebrafish larvae to mild electrical stimuli: a 96-well setup for behavioural screening

Journal of Neuroscience Methods




Zebrafish larvae have a high potential as model system to replace rodents, especially in screening and drug discovery applications. However, an experimental setup to deliver mild electrical stimuli with simultaneous high throughput behavioural tracking has not yet been described.

New method

A new tool was designed, making the delivery of electrical stimuli in a 96-well plate format possible. Using custom made electrode clips that can be slid over the walls of a square 96-well plate, 80 larvae could be tested simultaneously and behavioural responses recorded.


As proof of principle, two applications were tested: 1) The behavioural response after a single stimulus and the effect of buprenorphine on this response. 2) Habituation of locomotor activity to multiple stimuli and the involvement of the NMDA receptor. Reduced locomotor activity was observed after a single 5 V stimulus, however not with lower intensity stimuli. Pre-treatment with the analgesic buprenorphine prevented this response. Specificity of buprenorphine was confirmed using the antagonist naloxone. Habituation of locomotor activity was seen in response to multiple stimuli, depending on the inter stimulus interval. Treatment with the NMDA receptor antagonist memantine disrupted behavioural habituation.

Comparison with existing methods

The equipment and setup described here are the first of its kind using a 96-well plate format, thereby increasing the potential throughput in screening applications using zebrafish larvae.


The combination of the described electrode clips for stimulus delivery and behavioural tracking allows for the use of zebrafish larvae in a new array of medium to high throughput applications.


electrical stimulation; buprenorphine; naloxone; memantine; NMDA; zebrafish larvae



Changes in the hippocampal and peripheral phospholipid profiles are associated with neurodegeneration hallmarks in a long-term global cerebral ischemia model: Attenuation by Linalool




Phospholipid alterations in the brain are associated with progressive neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment after acute and chronic injuries. Various types of treatments have been evaluated for their abilities to block the progression of the impairment, but effective treatments targeting long-term post-stroke alterations are not available. In this study, we analyzed changes in the central and peripheral phospholipid profiles in ischemic rats and determined whether a protective monoterpene, Linalool, could modify them. We used an in vitro model of glutamate (125 μM) excitotoxicity and an in vivo global ischemia model in Wistar rats. Linalool (0.1 μM) protected neurons and astrocytes by reducing LDH release and restoring ATP levels. Linalool was administered orally at a dose of 25 mg/kg every 24 h for a month, behavioral tests were performed, and a lipidomic analysis was conducted using mass spectrometry. Animals treated with Linalool displayed faster neurological recovery than untreated ischemic animals, accompanied by better motor and cognitive performances. These results were confirmed by the significant reduction in astrogliosis, microgliosis and COX-2 marker, involving a decrease of 24:0 free fatty acid in the hippocampus. The altered profiles of phospholipids composed of mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PC 36:1; 42:1 (24:0/18:1)/LPC 22:6)/LPE 22:6) in the ischemic hippocampus and the upregulation of PI 36:2 and other LCFA (long chain fatty acids) in the serum of ischemic rats were prevented by the monoterpene. Based on these data, alterations in the central and peripheral phospholipid profiles after long-term was attenuated by oral Linalool, promoting a phospholipid homeostasis, related to the recovery of brain function.


Ischemia; Phospholipids; Neurodegeneration hallmarks; Linalool; Functional recovery



Assessment of Topographic Memory in Mice in a Complex Environment Using the Hamlet Test

Current Protocols in Mouse Biology


Topographic memory test in mice


Here we provide instructions to measure topographic memory in mice using the Hamlet test, a complex environment. The apparatus mimics a small hamlet with a central agora and five houses, which are functionalized since mice can drink, eat pellets, hide within a small maze, run in an activity wheel, or interact with a stranger mouse behind a grid. The houses are interconnected through a network of streets in a five‐arm star shape, and a video tracking system takes information from the activity in each house or follows a single mouse by trajectometry. Training the mice in the Hamlet, in groups for several hours per day over several days or weeks, allows consolidation of topographic memory (i.e., route learning involving both allocentric and egocentric strategies). Analysis of topographic memory can be performed a posteriori in a probe test by depriving mice of water or food and measuring their ability to efficiently reach the “eat” or “drink” house. Control groups include mice tested in non‐deprived condition and mice naïve to the Hamlet and tested in deprived or non‐deprived conditions. The present article details the apparatus, procedures, and protocols that can be used to reliably habituate mice in this complex environment and measure topographic memory.



Spontaneous resurgence of conditioned fear weeks after successful extinction in brain injured mice

Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry



• Spontaneous fear resurgence occurs months after mild brain injury
• TBI, without neurological deficits, leads to risk-taking and slow learning
• PTSD-like deficits occur in conjunction with myelin changes, but not cell density
• Fronto-cortical Bdnf mRNA exons I and IV decrease 3 weeks after mild brain injury



Mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and both disorders share common symptoms and neurobiological defects. Relapse after successful treatment, known as long-term fear resurgence, is common in PTSD patients and a major therapeutic hurdle. We induced a mild focal TBI by controlled cortical impact (CCI) in male C57BL/6 J mice and used fear conditioning to assess PTSD-like behaviors and concomitant alterations in the fear circuitry. We found for the first time that mild TBI, and to a lesser extent sham (craniotomy), mice displayed a spontaneous resurgence of conditioned fear when tested for fear extinction memory recall, despite having effectively acquired and extinguished conditioned fear 6 weeks earlier in the same context. Other characteristic symptoms of PTSD are risk-taking behaviors and cognitive deficits. CCI mice displayed risk-taking behaviors, behavioral inflexibility and reductions in processing speed compared to naïve mice. In conjunction with these changes there were alterations in amygdala morphology 3 months post-trauma, and decreased myelin basic protein density at the primary lesion site and in distant secondary sites such as the hippocampus, thalamus, and amygdala, compared to sham mice. Furthermore, activity-dependent brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) transcripts were decreased in the prefrontal cortex, a key region for fear extinction consolidation, following fear extinction training in both TBI and, to a lesser extent, sham mice. This study shows for the first time that a mild brain injury can generate a spontaneous resurgence of conditioned fear associated with defective BDNF signalling in the prefrontal cortex, PTSD-like behaviors, and have enduring effects on the brain.


5. Conclusion

We found here that mild TBI, and to a lesser extent craniotomy, produce long-term fear extinction deficits. TBI also induced risk taking behaviors, and reduced processing speed and cognitive flexibility. Three months after TBI, there were morphological changes and myelin loss in the CC, the cortex adjacent to the primary lesion site, and in several areas involved in conditioned fear. Bdnf transcription in the mPFC was reduced by TBI, but also craniotomy. Further studies with this murine model are necessary to determine whether re-equilibrating BDNF signalling few weeks after brain injury can restore the behavioral and neurobiological deficits.

Indeed, alterations of cortico-thalamo-amygdalar myelinated pathways may be linked with the decrease in Bdnf mRNA in cortical areas critical for fear extinction consolidation. Diffusion tensor imaging studies revealed similar alterations in PTSD patients (Sanjuan et al., 2013) while TBI patients display decreased BDNF levels late after injury (Schober et al., 2012). As BDNF induces white matterneuroprotection by promoting myelination via a direct action on oligodendrocytes (Husson et al., 2005; Xiao et al., 2010), the late onset of PTSD symptoms and reduction of processing speed after brain injury (Johnson and Lovell, 2011) might be prevented by treatments that increase cortical trophic factors. Systemic BDNF TrkBagonist (Andero et al., 2011) or neural stem cell cortical transplantation promoting TBI functional recovery via BDNF (Johnson and Lovell, 2011), may provide treatment for symptom relapses in the TBI/PTSD comorbidity.



Link to the full publication :



Inhibition of hematopoietic cell kinase dysregulates microglial function and accelerates early stage Alzheimer's disease-like neuropathology




Emerging evidence have posited that dysregulated microglia impair clearance and containment of amyloid‐β (Aβ) species in the brain, resulting in aberrant buildup of Aβ and onset of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Hematopoietic cell kinase (Hck) is one of the key regulators of phagocytosis among the Src family tyrosine kinases (SFKs) in myeloid cells, and its expression is found to be significantly altered in AD brains. However, the role of Hck signaling in AD pathogenesis is unknown. We employed pharmacological inhibition and genetic ablation of Hck in BV2 microglial cells and J20 mouse model of AD, respectively, to evaluate the impact of Hck deficiency on Aβ‐stimulated microglial phagocytosis, Aβ clearance, and resultant AD‐like neuropathology. Our in vitro data reveal that pharmacological inhibition of SFKs/Hck in BV2 cells and genetic ablation of their downstream kinase, spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk), in primary microglia significantly attenuate Aβ oligomers‐stimulated microglial phagocytosis. Whereas in Hck‐deficient J20 mice, we observed exacerbated Aβ plaque burden, reduced microglial coverage, containment, and phagocytosis of Aβ plaques, and induced iNOS expression in plaque‐associated microglial clusters. These multifactorial changes in microglial activities led to attenuated PSD95 levels in hippocampal DG and CA3 regions, but did not alter the postsynaptic dendritic spine morphology at the CA1 region nor cognitive function of the mice. Hck inhibition thus accelerates early stage AD‐like neuropathology by dysregulating microglial function and inducing neuroinflammation. Our data implicate that Hck pathway plays a prominent role in regulating microglial neuroprotective function during the early stage of AD development.

Link to the publication :


Striatal cholinergic interneurons regulate cognitive and affective dysfunction in partially dopamine‐depleted mice

European Journal of Neuroscience



Early non‐motor symptoms such as mood disorders and cognitive deficits are increasingly recognised in Parkinson's disease (PD). They may precede the characteristic motor symptomatology caused by dopamine (DA) neuronal loss in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc). It is well known that striatal cholinergic interneurons (ChIs) are emerging as key regulators of PD motor symptom, however, their involvement in the cognitive and affective alterations occurring in the premotor phase of PD is poorly understood. We used optogenetic photoinhibition of striatal ChIs in mice with mild nigrostriatal 6‐hydroxydopamine (6‐OHDA) lesions and assessed their role in anxiety‐like behaviour in the elevated plus maze, social memory recognition of a congener and visuospatial object recognition. In transgenic mice specifically expressing halorhodopsin (eNpHR) in cholinergic neurons, striatal ChIs photoinhibition reduced the anxiety‐like behaviour and reversed social and spatial short‐term memory impairment induced by moderate DA depletion (e.g., 50% loss of tyrosine hydroxylase TH‐positive neurons in the SNc). Systemic injection of telenzepine (0.3 mg/kg), a preferential M1 muscarinic cholinergic receptors antagonist, improved anxiety‐like behaviour, social memory recognition but not spatial memory deficits. Our results suggest that dysfunction of the striatal cholinergic system may play a role in the short‐term cognitive and emotional deficits of partially DA‐depleted mice. Blocking cholinergic activity with M1 muscarinic receptor antagonists may represent a possible therapeutic target, although not exclusive, to modulate these early non‐motor deficits.

Link to the publication :


A two-hit story: Seizures and genetic mutation interaction sets phenotype severity in SCN1A epilepsies

Neurobiology of Disease



• The interaction between seizures and the Scn1a mutation causes severe phenotypes.
• Remodeling underlying phenotype worsening is not directly linked to mutation's effect.
• Genetic variants may increase the risk of second hits to worsen phenotypes.


SCN1A (NaV1.1 sodium channel) mutations cause Dravet syndrome (DS) and GEFS+ (which is in general milder), and are risk factors in other epilepsies. Phenotypic variability limits precision medicine in epilepsy, and it is important to identify factors that set phenotype severity and their mechanisms. It is not yet clear whether SCN1A mutations are necessary for the development of severe phenotypes or just for promoting seizures. A relevant example is the pleiotropic R1648H mutation that can cause either mild GEFS+ or severe DS.

We used a R1648H knock-in mouse model (Scn1aRH/+) with mild/asymptomatic phenotype to dissociate the effects of seizures and of the mutation per se. The induction of short repeated seizures, at the age of disease onset for Scn1a mouse models (P21), had no effect in WT mice, but transformed the mild/asymptomatic phenotype of Scn1aRH/+ mice into a severe DS-like phenotype, including frequent spontaneous seizures and cognitive/behavioral deficits. In these mice, we found no major modifications in cytoarchitecture or neuronal death, but increased excitability of hippocampal granule cells, consistent with a pathological remodeling.

Therefore, we demonstrate for our model that an SCN1A mutation is a prerequisite for a long term deleterious effect of seizures on the brain, indicating a clear interaction between seizures and the mutation for the development of a severe phenotype generated by pathological remodeling. Applied to humans, this result suggests that genetic alterations, even if mild per se, may increase the risk of second hits to develop severe phenotypes.


Link to the publication :


Diet-Induced Paternal Obesity Impairs Cognitive Function in Offspring by Mediating Epigenetic Modifications in Spermatozoa

Obesity Society




This study aimed to determine the effects of diet‐induced paternal obesity on cognitive function in mice offspring.


Male mice (F0) were randomized to receive either a control diet (10 kcal% fat) or a high‐fat diet (HFD; 60 kcal% fat) for 10 weeks before being mated with normal females to generate F1 offspring. Male F1 offspring were mated with normal females to generate F2 offspring. Behavioral tests were used to assess cognitive functions in F1 and F2 offspring. Reduced representation bisulfite sequencing was used to the explore mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance.


HFD‐induced paternal obesity resulted in cognitive impairments in F1 offspring, potentially due, at least in part, to increased methylation of the BDNF gene promoter, which was inherited from F0 spermatozoa. BDNF/tyrosine receptor kinase B signaling was associated with cognitive impairments in HFD‐fed F1 offspring. However, there were no significant changes in F2 offspring.


The findings provide evidence of intergenerational effects of paternal obesity on cognitive function in offspring occurring via epigenetic spermatozoan modifications.

Link to the publication :



Behavioural responses in effect to chemical stress in fish

International Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Studies


Fish: biochemical responses to toxicants


Abstract :

Due to industrialization and urbanization many pollutants are being introduced directly and indirectly into aquatic ecosystem. Behavioural bioassay have been widely used in toxicity assessment. Bioassay based on behavior is faster, more sensitive and ecologically more relevant as assessing growth and reproduction need longer bioassay. Behavioural bioassay is more promising alternatives than lethality evaluating bioassay which are currently used for the risk assessment of toxicant. Behavioural changes provide early warning signals about the health of exposed population which other standard tests do not take in to consideration. These endpoints may be 10–100 times more sensitive than those derived from acute or chronic tests because chemicals can induce rapid behavioural responses in organisms even at very low concentrations. Behaviour is an organism-level effect defined as the action, reaction, or functioning of a system under a set of specific circumstances. We rationalize that a greater understanding of behavioural responses in effect to chemical stress may increase. Therefore in current scenario there is a need of developing newer and effective methods to study the behavioural responses. Behavioural changes in a fish form an efficient index to measure any alterations in the environmental conditions.


Link to the publication:  https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Madhu_Sharma6/publication/330090387_Behavioural_responses_in_effect_to_chemical_stress_in_fish_A_review_Madhu_Sharma/links/5c2cd5b892851c22a35547bc/Behavioural-responses-in-effect-to-chemical-stress-in-fish-A-review-Madhu-Sharma.pdf

Post-retrieval re-learning strengthens hippocampal memories via destabilization and reconsolidation

The Journal of neuroscience



Memory reconsolidation is hypothesised to be a mechanism by which memories can be updated with new information. Such updating has previously been shown to weaken memory expression or change the nature of the memory. Here we demonstrate that retrieval-induced memory destabilization also allows that memory to be strengthened by additional learning. We show that for rodent contextual fear memories, this retrieval-conditioning effect is observed only when conditioning occurs within a specific temporal window opened by retrieval. Moreover, it necessitates hippocampal protein degradation at the proteasome and engages hippocampal Zif268 protein expression, both of which are established mechanisms of memory destabilization-reconsolidation. We also demonstrate a conceptually analogous pattern of results in human visual paired-associate learning. Retrieval-relearning strengthens memory performance, again only when relearning occurs within the temporal window of memory reconsolidation. These findings link retrieval-mediated learning in humans to the reconsolidation literature, and have potential implications both for the understanding of endogenous memory gains and strategies to boost weakly-learned memories.

The mineralocorticoid receptor is essential for stress axis regulation in zebrafish larvae




The mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in mammals mediates the effects of aldosterone in regulating fluid balance and potassium homeostasis. While MR signalling is essential for survival in mammals, there is no evidence that MR has any physiological role in ray-finned fish. Teleosts lack aldosterone and emerging evidence suggest that cortisol mediates ion and fluid regulation by activating glucocorticoid receptor (GR) signalling. Consequently, a physiological role for MR signalling, despite its conserved and ancient origin, is still lacking. We tested the hypothesis that a key physiological role for MR signalling in fish is the regulation of stress axis activation and function. Using either MR or GR knockout zebrafish, our results reveal distinct and complementary role for these receptors in stress axis function. GR−/− mutants were hypercortisolemic and failed to elicit a cortisol stress response, while MR−/− mutants showed a delayed, but sustained cortisol response post-stressor. Both these receptors are involved in stress-related behaviour, as the loss of either receptors abolished the glucocorticoid-mediated larval hyperactivity to a light stimulus. Overall, the results underscore a key physiological role for MR signalling in ray-finned fishes, and we propose that the regulation of the highly conserved stress axis as the original function of this receptor.


Link to the publication :


Dopamine D1-like receptors in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex regulate contextual fear conditioning





Dopamine D1 receptor (D1R) signalling is involved in contextual fear conditioning. The D1R antagonist SCH23390 impairs the acquisition of contextual fear when administered systemically or infused locally into the dorsal hippocampus or basolateral amygdala.


We determined if state dependency may account for the impairment in contextual fear conditioning caused by systemic SCH23390 administration. We also examined if the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), nucleus accumbens (NAc), and ventral hippocampus (VH) are involved in mediating the effect of systemic SCH23390 treatment on contextual fear conditioning.


In experiment 1, SCH23390 (0.1 mg/kg) or vehicle was given before contextual fear conditioning and/or retrieval. In experiment 2, SCH23390 (2.5 μg/0.5 uL) or vehicle was infused locally into dmPFC, NAc, or VH before contextual fear conditioning, and retrieval was tested drug-free. Freezing was quantified as a measure of contextual fear.


In experiment 1, SCH23390 given before conditioning or before both conditioning and retrieval decreased freezing at retrieval, whereas SCH23390 given only before retrieval had no effect. In experiment 2, SCH23390 infused into dmPFC before conditioning decreased freezing at retrieval, while infusion of SCH23390 into NAc or VH had no effect.


The results of experiment 1 confirm those of previous studies indicating that D1Rs are required for the acquisition but not retrieval of contextual fear and rule out state dependency as an explanation for these findings. Moreover, the results of experiment 2 provide evidence that dmPFC is also part of the neural circuitry through which D1R signalling regulates contextual fear conditioning.


Link to the publication :



Endothelium-Derived Semaphorin 3G Regulates Hippocampal Synaptic Structure and Plasticity via Neuropilin-2/PlexinA4




• Endothelium-derived Sema3G is necessary for synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus
• Loss of Sema3G in the vascular endothelium results in behavioral and memory deficits
• Sema3G regulates synaptic structure and function via the neuropilin-2/PlexinA4 receptor
• Sema3G functionally links the endothelium to signaling cascades activated in neurons


The proper interactions between blood vessels and neurons are critical for maintaining the strength of neural circuits and cognitive function. However, the precise molecular events underlying these interactions remain largely unknown. Here, we report that the selective knockout of semaphorin 3G (Sema3G) in endothelial cells impaired hippocampal-dependent memory and reduced dendritic spine density in CA1 neurons in mice; these effects were reversed after restoration of Sema3G levels in the hippocampus by AAV transfection. We further show that Sema3G increased excitatory synapse density via neuropilin-2/PlexinA4 signaling and through activation of Rac1. These results provide the first evidence that, in the central nervous system, endothelial Sema3G serves as a vascular-derived synaptic organizer that regulates synaptic plasticity and hippocampal-dependent memory. Our findings highlight the role of vascular endothelial cells in regulating cognitive function through intercellular communication with neurons in the hippocampus.


Link to the publication :


Deletion of the vesicular monoamine transporter 1 (vmat1/slc18a1) gene affects dopamine signaling

Brain Research



• Vesicular monoamine transporters are involved in presynaptic catecholamine storage and contribute to monoamine neurotransmission.
• Two isoforms exist, VMAT1 and VMAT2, but limited data exist for VMAT1.
• VMAT1 has recently been identified as target for neuropsychiatric disorders.
• This study investigated null-mutant VMAT1 animals for effects on monoamine tissue content, effects on up- and downstream dopaminergic targets and behavioral consequences.
• VMAT1 KO mice have decreased dopamine levels in frontal cortex, increased postsynaptic DRD2 expression and lower frontal cortex tyrosine hydroxylase expression.
• VMAT1 KO mice show a marked behavioral locomotor response when challenged with amphetamine.


The vesicular monoamine transporter is involved in presynaptic catecholamine storage and neurotransmission. Two isoforms of the transporter exist, VMAT1 and VMAT2, and both are. expressed in the brain, though VMAT2 expression is more robust and has been more widely studied. In this study we investigated the role of VMAT1 KO on markers of dopaminergic function and neurotransmission, and dopamine-related behaviors.

Null-mutant VMAT1 mice were studied behaviorally using the tail suspension test, elevated zero maze and locomotor activity assessments. Tissue monoamines were measured both ex vivo and by using in vivo microdialysis. Protein expression of tyrosine hydroxylase and D2 dopamine receptors was measured using western blot analysis.

Results show that VMAT1 KO mice have decreased dopamine levels in the frontal cortex, increased postsynaptic D2 expression, and lower frontal cortex tyrosine hydroxylase expression compared to WT mice. VMAT1 KO mice also show an exaggerated behavioral locomotor response to acute amphetamine treatment.

We conclude that dopaminergic signaling is robustly altered in the frontal cortex of VMAT1 null-mutant mice and suggest that VMAT1 may be relevant to the pathogenesis and/or treatment of psychiatric illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disease.


Link to the publication :


Spared cognitive and behavioral functions prior to epilepsy onset in a rat model of subcortical band heteropia

Brain Research



• Subcortical band heterotopia (SBH) does not impair motor functions and somatosensory processing in pre-epileptic rats.
• Learning and memory are normal in rats with SBH before seizure onset.
• Our data suggest that the SBH presence is not sufficient to impair behavioral functions.


Subcortical band heterotopia (SBH), also known as doublecortex syndrome, is a malformation of cortical development resulting from mutations in the doublecortin gene (DCX). It is characterized by a lack of migration of cortical neurons that accumulate in the white matter forming a heterotopic band. Patients with SBH may present mild to moderate intellectual disability as well as epilepsy. The SBH condition can be modeled in rats by in utero knockdown (KD) of Dcx. The affected cells form an SBH reminiscent of that observed in human patients and the animals develop a chronic epileptic condition in adulthood. Here, we investigated if the presence of an SBH is sufficient to induce cognitive impairment in juvenile Dcx-KD rats, before the onset of epilepsy. Using a wide range of behavioral tests, we found that the presence of SBH did not appear to affect motor control or somatosensory processing. In addition, cognitive abilities such as learning, short-term and long-term memory, were normal in pre-epileptic Dcx-KD rats. We suggest that the SBH presence is not sufficient to impair these behavioral functions.


Link to the publication :


Apigenin attenuates acrylonitrile-induced neuro-inflammation in rats: Involved of inactivation of the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway

International Immunopharmacology




• Apigenin protected the brains from acrylonitrile-induced neurotoxicity.
• Apigenin inhibited neuro-inflammation via downregulating the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway.
• Apigenin suppressed neuronal apoptosis expressed as inhibiting mitochondria-mediated apoptosis pathway.



Acrylonitrile (ACN) is often found in the productions of synthetic fibers, rubber, and plastics. Exposure to ACN could cause pathological changes of the nervous system, which appeared early and were very serious. Current studies have found that the neurotoxicity is mainly related to oxidative damage and inflammation induced by ACN. Apigenin (AP) is a flavonoid subtype compound that is less toxic, non-mutagenic, and widely distributed in many types of vegetables and fruits. Studies have confirmed that it has nice antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic properties in the nervous system and related disease models, such as Alzheimer's disease. In this study, we used AP (117, 234 and 351 mg·kg1) pretreatment intragastrically to resist the neurotoxicity caused by ACN gavage (46 mg·kg−1) for 28 days, and then detected the oxidative stress, inflammation mediated by the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway, and apoptosis to evaluate the protective effect of AP. The results showed that AP could lessen the autonomic activities of rats, and improve the abnormal morphology of neurons induced by ACN. AP could also reduce the oxidative stress, downregulate the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway, decrease the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and inhibit the mitochondria-mediated neuron apoptosis. Immunofluorescence result showed that AP could decrease the activation and nuclear transfer of NF-κB induced by ACN. These results suggested that AP could protect the brain against ACN-induced neurotoxicity by inhibiting the TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathway and could exhibit a neuroprotective effect.


Link to the publication : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567576919304680


Role of Olfactorily Responsive Neurons in the Right Dorsal Habenula - Ventral Interpeduncular Nucleus Pathway in Food- Seeking Behaviors of Larval Zebrafish




• Olfactorily responsive neurons preferentially locate in the right (R) but not left dorsal habenula (dHb).
• This right-to-left Hb asymmetry converts to a ventral-to-dorsal pattern in the downstream interpeduncular nucleus (IPN).
• Loss-of-function of either the R-dHb or ventral IPN (V-IPN) impairs food-seeking associated increase of swimming activity.
• Asymmetrical olfactory responses in the R-dHb to V-IPN pathway are important for food-seeking behavior of larval zebrafish.


The habenula (Hb) plays important roles in emotion-related behaviors. Besides receiving inputs from the limbic system and basal ganglia, Hb also gets inputs from multiple sensory modalities. Sensory responses of Hb neurons in zebrafish are asymmetrical: the left and right dorsal Hb (dHb) preferentially respond to visual and olfactory stimuli, respectively, implying different functions of the left and right dHb. While visual responses of the left dHb (L-dHb) has been implicated in light-preference behavior, the significance of olfactory responses of the right dHb (R-dHb) remains under-examined. It was reported that the R-dHb can gate innate attraction to a bile salt. However, considering a broad range of odors that R-dHb respond to, it is of interest to examine the role of R-dHb in other olfactory behaviors, especially food seeking, which is essential for animals' survival. Here, using in vivo whole-cell recording and calcium imaging, we first characterized food extract-evoked responses of Hb neurons. Responsive neurons preferentially locate in the R- but not L-dHb and exhibit either ON- (~ 87%) or OFF-type responses (~ 13%). Interestingly, this right-to-left asymmetry of olfactory responses converts into a ventral-to-dorsal pattern in the interpeduncular nucleus (IPN), a main downstream target of Hb. Combining behavior assay, we further found that genetic dysfunction or lesion of the R-dHb and its corresponding downstream ventral IPN (V-IPN) impairs the food seeking-associated increase of swimming activity. Thus, our study indicates that the asymmetrical olfactory response in the R-dHb to V-IPN pathway plays an important role in food-seeking behavior of zebrafish larvae.

Link to the publication :



Fluoride 2019



The protective effect of resveratrol (RSV), a stimulator of the silent mating
type information regulation 2 homolog (SIRT1), on the neurotoxicity of rat brain induced
by chronic fluorosis was investigated. Thirty-two Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were
divided randomly into four groups: (i) a control group; (ii) a RSV treatment group; (iii) a
fluoride-exposed group (50 ppm F- in drinking water); and (iv) a fluoride plus RSV group.
The experimental period was 7 months. The protein levels of SIRT1 in the cortex and the
hippocampus of the rat brains were determined by Western blotting, the SOD activity
and the MDA content in the brains by biochemical methods, and the 8-OHdG content by
ELISA. The spatial learning ability and the memory of the rats was examined by the
Morris Water Maze test. The results showed chronic fluorosis caused changes to the
brains of the rats with a reduced SIRT1 protein, elevated MDA and 8-OHdG contents,
inhibited SOD activity, and, in addition, decreased learning and memory. Interestingly,
RSV pretreatment attenuated the reduced SIRT1, the raised level of oxidative stress, and
the lowered ability for learning and memory resulting from the chronic fluorosis. The
results indicate that RSV may have a neuroprotective effect on fluoride toxicity.

Dopaminergic signalling is necessary, but not sufficient for cued fear memory destabilisation




Pharmacological targeting of memory reconsolidation is a promising therapeutic strategy for the treatment of fear memory-related disorders. However, the success of reconsolidation-based approaches depends upon the effective destabilisation of the fear memory by memory reactivation. Here, we show that the nootropic nefiracetam stimulates tone fear memory destabilisation to facilitate reconsolidation disruption by the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist mifepristone. Moreover, the enhancing effect of nefiracetam was dependent upon dopamine D1 receptor activation, although direct D1 receptor agonism was not sufficient to facilitate destabilisation. Finally, while the combined treatment with nefiracetam and mifepristone did not confer fearreducing effects under conditions of extinction learning, there was some evidence that mifepristone reduces fear expression irrespective of memory reactivation parameters. Therefore, the use of combination pharmacological treatment to stimulate memory destabilisation and impair reconsolidation has potential therapeutic benefits, without risking a maladaptive increase of fear.


Link to the publication :


Microglial-targeting induced by intranasal linalool during neurological protection postischemia




• Intranasal linalool reduces infarct volume and recovers neurological function after ischemia.
• Linalool intranasal induces anti-inflammatory microglia.
• Nrf-2 microglial redistribution under anti-inflammatory context by linalool.



Stroke is the second cause of death and first cause of physical disability around the world; it affects the brain parenchyma through oxygen deficiency and spreads excitotoxicity. The complexity of the disease has made it difficult to find effective therapies. It is necessary to identify new treatments that effectively act within the narrow therapeutic window but also offer long-term protection poststroke. Our previous work found that oral linalool reversed the hippocampal and peripheral pro-inflammatory phospholipidomic biomarkers in ischemic rats; based on these observations, the “proof of concept” was to demonstrate that intranasal administration of linalool has a faster delivery to the central nervous system to protect it after focal ischemia in Wistar rats. The ischemic animals treated with linalool (25 mg/kg) showed a decrease in infarct volume at 24 h and seven days, and the treated animals had better neurological and motor skills at both poststroke times. Additionally, one month after daily intranasal administration of linalool, the ischemic rats showed improved relearning performance in the Morris water maze test. They also exhibited a reduction in microgliosis and decreased COX2, IL-1Beta and Nrf2 markers in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. In astrocyte and microglial cultures, linalool reduced pro-inflammation and had a potent effect on microglial cells, generating Nrf2 subcellular redistribution under glutamate excitotoxicity conditions. Together, our findings indicate an acute and chronic recovery after ischemia induced by a daily intranasal puff of linalool, which mainly acts on microglial populations with anti-inflammatory actions.


Link to the publication :


Sleep deprivation caused a memory defects and emotional changes in a rotenone-based zebrafish model of Parkinson’s disease

Behavioural Brain Research



• Sleep deprivation worsened the memory impairment of rotenone treated zebrafish.

• DA metabolic process was significantly increases after sleep deprivation.
• The expression of dopamine D2 receptors were decreased in SD + Rotenone group.



Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world. Apart from motor deficits, PD reduces patient’s quality of life through sleep disturbances, cognitive impairment and emotional disorders. However, it’s unclear whether bad life habits such as stay up late exacerbate the patient’s cognition and emotional disorders. Thus we investigated the consequences of sleep deprivation (SD) on memory and emotions using a rotenone-based zebrafish model of PD. Behavioral assays, using locomotor activity assay, showed that rotenone treated zebrafish exhibited PD-like symptoms, whereas sleep deprivation didn’t exacerbate the progression of them. The object discrimination task exhibited that the short-term cognitive deficits of rotenone group are more serious than the sham group after SD. Light-dark box test showed that rotenone treated fish are more dysphoric than the sham fish after SD. Dopamine and DOPAC significantly reduced in rotenone treated fish compared with the sham fish. However, this DOPAC reduction recovered after SD. The expression of D2 and D3 in rotenone treated zebrafish elevated compared with sham group and SD group. However, the rotenone treated zebrafish manifested a decrease level of D2 and D3 after SD. D1 did not show any significantly changes among the four groups. Our findings suggest that zebrafish treated with rotenone may have a more severe damage of memory and emotional function after SD, which may be related to the changes in the DA systems.


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Role of Adult-Born Versus Preexisting Neurons Born at P0 in Olfactory Perception in a Complex Olfactory Environment in Mice

Cerebral Cortex



Olfactory perceptual learning is defined as an improvement in the discrimination of perceptually close odorants after passive exposure to these odorants. In mice, simple olfactory perceptual learning involving the discrimination of two odorants depends on an increased number of adult-born neurons in the olfactory bulb, which refines the bulbar output. However, the olfactory environment is complex, raising the question of the adjustment of the bulbar network to multiple discrimination challenges. Perceptual learning of 1 to 6 pairs of similar odorants led to discrimination of all learned odor pairs. Increasing complexity did not increase adult-born neuron survival but enhanced the number of adult-born neurons responding to learned odorants and their spine density. Moreover, only complex learning induced morphological changes in neurons of the granule cell layer born during the first day of life (P0). Selective optogenetic inactivation of either population confirmed functional involvement of adult-born neurons regardless of the enrichment complexity, while preexisting neurons were required for complex discrimination only.


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Bexarotene therapy ameliorates behavioral deficits and induces functional and molecular changes in very-old Triple Transgenic Mice model of Alzheimer´s disease

Plos One



Introduction Bexarotene, a retinoid X receptor agonist, improves cognition in murine models of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). This study evaluated the effects of bexarotene on pathological and electrophysiological changes in very old triple transgenic AD mice (3xTg-AD mice).


Methods 24-month-old 3xTg-AD mice were treated with bexarotene (100 mg/kg/day for 30 days). The Morris water maze was used to evaluate spatial memory; immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy were used to evaluate pathological changes; and in vivo electrophysiological recordings were used to evaluate basal transmission and plasticity in the commissural CA3-CA1 pathway.


Results In addition to cognitive improvement, bexarotene-treated 3xTg-AD mice were found to have 1) reductions of astrogliosis and reactive microglia both in cortex and hippocampus; 2) increased ApoE expression restricted to CA1; 3) increased number of cells co-labeled with ApoE and NeuN; 4) recovery of NeuN expression, suggesting neuronal protection; and, 5) recovery of basal synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity.


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Long‐lasting correction of in vivo LTP and cognitive deficits of mice modelling Down syndrome with an α5‐selective GABAA inverse agonist

British Journal of pharmacology



Background and Purpose

Excessive GABAergic inhibition contributes to cognitive dysfunctions in Down syndrome (DS). Selective negative allosteric modulators (NAMs) of α5‐containing GABAA receptors such as α5IA restore learning and memory deficits in Ts65Dn mice modelling DS. This study aimed at testing long‐lasting effects of α5IA on in vivo long‐term potentiation (LTP) and behavior in Ts65Dn mice.

Experimental Approach

We performed in vivo long‐term potentiation (LTP) recordings for six consecutive days in freely moving Ts65Dn mice and their wild‐type littermates, treated with vehicle or α5IA. In parallel, Ts65Dn mice were subjected to various learning and memory tests (Y‐maze, Morris water maze or the novel object recognition) up to seven days following one single injection of α5IA or vehicle.

Key Results

We found that LTP could not be evoked in vivo in Ts65Dn mice at the hippocampal CA3‐CA1 synapse. However, this deficit was sustainably reversed for at least six consecutive days following a single injection of α5IA. This long‐lasting effect of α5IA was also unveiled when assessing working and long‐term memory deficits in Ts65Dn mice.

Conclusion and Implications

We show for the first time in vivo LTP deficits in Ts65Dn mice. These deficits are restored for at least six days following acute treatment with α5IA and might be the substrate for the long‐lasting pharmacological effects of α5IA demonstrated here on spatial working and long‐term recognition and spatial memory tasks. Altogether, these results highlight the interest of NAMs of α5‐containing GABAA receptors for treating cognitive deficits associated with DS.


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Decreased microglial Wnt/β-catenin signalling drives microglial pro-inflammatory activation in the developing brain




Microglia of the developing brain have unique functional properties but how their activation states are regulated is poorly understood. Inflammatory activation of microglia in the still-developing brain of preterm-born infants is associated with permanent neurological sequelae in 9 million infants every year. Investigating the regulators of microglial activation in the developing brain across models of neuroinflammation-mediated injury (mouse, zebrafish) and primary human and mouse microglia we found using analysis of genes and proteins that a reduction in Wnt/β-catenin signalling is necessary and sufficient to drive a microglial phenotype causing hypomyelination. We validated in a cohort of preterm-born infants that genomic variation in the Wnt pathway is associated with the levels of connectivity found in their brains. Using a Wnt agonist delivered by a blood–brain barrier penetrant microglia-specific targeting nanocarrier we prevented in our animal model the pro-inflammatory microglial activation, white matter injury and behavioural deficits. Collectively, these data validate that the Wnt pathway regulates microglial activation, is critical in the evolution of an important form of human brain injury and is a viable therapeutic target.


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Rapeseed oil fortified with micronutrients improves cognitive alterations associated with metabolic syndrome

Brain, Behaviour and Immunity


Mouse: metabolic syndromes can be reduced through intake of micronutrients




• n-3 PUFA/AO intake increased brain n-3 PUFA levels in a MetS model, the db/db mice.
• n-3 PUFA/AO reversed hippocampus-dependent spatial memory deficits in db/db mice.
• n-3 PUFA/AO modulated subunit composition of glutamate receptors in the hippocampus.
• n-3 PUFA/AO may reduce MetS-related memory deficits by changing neuronal plasticity.



Metabolic syndrome represents a major risk factor for severe comorbidities such as cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. It is also associated with an increased prevalence of emotional and cognitive alterations that in turn aggravate the disease and related outcomes. Identifying therapeutic strategies able to improve those alterations is therefore a major socioeconomical and public health challenge. We previously reported that both hippocampal inflammatory processes and neuronal plasticity contribute to the development of emotional and cognitive alterations in db/db mice, an experimental model of metabolic syndrome that displays most of the classical features of the syndrome. In that context, nutritional interventions with known impact on those neurobiological processes appear as a promising alternative to limit the development of neurobiological comorbidities of metabolic syndrome. We therefore tested here whether n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) associated with a cocktail of antioxidants can protect against the development of behavioral alterations that accompany the metabolic syndrome. Thus, this study aimed: 1) to evaluate if a diet supplemented with the plant-derived n-3 PUFA α-linolenic acid (ALA) and antioxidants (provided by n-3 PUFAs-rich rapeseed oil fortified with a mix of naturally constituting antioxidant micronutrients, including coenzyme Q10, tocopherol, and the phenolic compound canolol) improved behavioral alterations in db/db mice, and 2) to decipher the biological mechanisms underlying this behavioral effect. Although the supplemented diet did not improve anxiety-like behavior and inflammatory abnormalities, it reversed hippocampus-dependent spatial memory deficits displayed by db/db mice in a water maze task. It concomitantly changed subunit composition of glutamatergic AMPA and NMDA receptors in the hippocampus that has been shown to modulate synaptic function related to spatial memory. These data suggest that changes in local neuronal plasticity may underlie cognitive improvements in db/db mice fed the supplemented diet. The current findings might therefore provide valuable data for introducing new nutritional strategies for the treatment of behavioral complications associated with MetS.


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Exosomal 20 ,30 -CNP from mesenchymal stem cells promotes hippocampus CA1 neurogenesis/neuritogenesis and contributes to rescue of cognition/learning deficiencies of damaged brain

Stem Cells


Abstract :

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been used in clinical studies to treat neurological diseases and damage. However, implanted MSCs do not achieve their regenerative effects by differentiating into and replacing neural cells. Instead, MSC secretome components mediate the regenerative effects of MSCs. MSC-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs)/exosomes carry cargo responsible for rescuing brain damage. We previously showed that EP4 antagonist-induced MSC EVs/exosomes have enhanced regenerative potential to rescue hippocampal damage, compared with EVs/exosomes from untreated MSCs. Here we show that EP4 antagonist-induced MSC EVs/ exosomes promote neurosphere formation in vitro and increase neurogenesis and neuritogenesis in damaged hippocampi; basal MSC EVs/exosomes do not contribute to these regenerative effects. 20 ,30 -Cyclic nucleotide 30 -phosphodiesterase (CNP) levels in EP4 antagonist-induced MSC EVs/exosomes are 20-fold higher than CNP levels in basal MSC EVs/exosomes. Decreasing elevated exosomal CNP levels in EP4 antagonist-induced MSC EVs/exosomes reduced the efficacy of these EVs/exosomes in promoting β3-tubulin polymerization and in converting toxic 20 ,30 -cAMP into neuroprotective adenosine. CNP-depleted EP4 antagonist-induced MSC EVs/exosomes lost the ability to promote neurogenesis and neuritogenesis in damaged hippocampi. Systemic administration of EV/exosomes from EP4-antagonist derived MSC EVs/exosomes repaired cognition, learning, and memory deficiencies in mice caused by hippocampal damage. In contrast, CNP-depleted EP4 antagonist-induced MSC EVs/exosomes failed to repair this damage. Exosomal CNP contributes to the ability of EP4 antagonist-elicited MSC EVs/exosomes to promote neurogenesis and neuritogenesis in damaged hippocampi and recovery of cognition, memory, and learning. This experimental approach should be generally applicable to identifying the role of EV/exosomal components in eliciting a variety of biological responses.


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Histological and behavioral evaluation after traumatic brain injury in mice: a ten months follow-up study

Journal of Neurotrauma


Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a chronic pathology, inducing long term deficits that remains understudied in preclinical studies. In this context, exploration, anxiety-like behavior, cognitive flexibility and motor coordination were assessed until 5 and 10 months after an experimental TBI in the adult mouse, using two cohorts. In order to differentiate age, surgery, and remote gray and white matter lesions, three groups, unoperated, sham-operated, and TBI, were studied. TBI induced delayed motor coordination deficits at the pole test, 4.5 months after injury, that could be explained by gray and white matter damages in ipsilateral nigrostriatal structures (striatum, internal capsule) that were spreading to new structures between cohorts, at 5 versus 10 months after the injury. Furthermore, TBI induced an enhanced exploratory behavior during stressful situations (active phase during actimetry test, object exploration in an open field), risk-taking behaviors in the elevated plus maze 5 months after injury, and a cognitive inflexibility in the Barnes maze that persists until 9 months after the injury. These behavioral modifications could be related to the white and gray matter lesions observed in ipsi- and contra-lateral limbic structures (amygdala, hilus/CA4, hypothalamus, external capsule, corpus callosum, cingular cortex) that were spreading to new structures between cohorts, at 5 months versus 10 months after the injury. The present study corroborates clinical findings on TBI, and provides a relevant rodent chronic model which could help validating pharmacological strategies against the chronic consequences of TBI.


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Ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes




The partial pressure of CO2 in the oceans has increased rapidly over the past century, driving ocean acidification and raising concern for the stability of marine ecosystems1,2,3. Coral reef fishes are predicted to be especially susceptible to end-of-century ocean acidification on the basis of several high-profile papers4,5 that have reported profound behavioural and sensory impairments—for example, complete attraction to the chemical cues of predators under conditions of ocean acidification. Here, we comprehensively and transparently show that—in contrast to previous studies—end-of-century ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviours of coral reef fishes, such as the avoidance of chemical cues from predators, fish activity levels and behavioural lateralization (left–right turning preference). Using data simulations, we additionally show that the large effect sizes and small within-group variances that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable. Together, our findings indicate that the reported effects of ocean acidification on the behaviour of coral reef fishes are not reproducible, suggesting that behavioural perturbations will not be a major consequence for coral reef fishes in high CO2 oceans.


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Protections against toxicity in the brains of rat with chronic fluorosis and primary neurons exposed to fluoride by resveratrol involves nicotinic acetylcholine receptors



Protection of Resveratrol (RSV) against the neurotoxicity induced by high level of fluoride was investigated. Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats and their offspring, as well as cultures of primary neurons were divided randomly into four groups: untreated (control); treated with 50 mg RSV/kg/ (once daily by gavage) or (20 M in the cultured medium); exposed to 50 ppm F in drinking water or 4 mmol/l in the cultured medium; and exposed to fluoride then RSV as above. The adult rats were treated for 7 months and the offspring sacrificed at 28 days of age; the cultured neurons for 48 h. For general characterization, dental fluorosis was assessed and the fluoride content of the urine measured (by fluoride-electrode) in the rates and the survival of cultured neurons monitored with the CCK-8 test. The spatial learning and memory of rats were assessed with the Morris water maze test. The levels of α7 and α4 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) were quantified by Western blotting; and the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT), and the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) and H2O2 assayed biochemically. The results showed that chronic fluorosis resulted in the impaired learning and memory in rats and their offspring, and more oxidative stress in both rat brains and cultured neurons, which may be associated the lower levels of α7 and α4 nAChR subunits. Interestingly, RSV attenuated all of these toxic effects by fluorosis, indicating that protection against the neurotoxicity of fluoride by RSV might be in mechanism involved enhancing the expressions of these nAChRs.



Responsiveness of dentate neurons generated throughout adult life is associated with resilience to cognitive aging

Aging Cell


Abstract :

During aging, some individuals are resilient to the decline of cognitive functions whereas others are vulnerable. These inter-individual differences in memory abilities have been associated with differences in the rate of hippocampal neurogenesis measured in elderlies. Whether the maintenance of the functionality of neurons generated throughout adult life is linked to resilience to cognitive aging remains completely unexplored. Using the immediate early gene Zif268, we analyzed the activation of dentate granule neurons born in adult (3-month-old), middle-aged (12-month-old), or senescent (18-month-old) rats (n = 96) in response to learning when animals reached 21 months of age. The activation of neurons born during the developmental period was also examined. We show that adult-born neurons can survive up to 19 months and that neurons generated 4, 10, or 19 months before learning, but not developmentally born neurons, are activated in senescent rats with good learning abilities. In contrast, aged rats with bad learning abilities do not exhibit activity-dependent regulation of newborn cells, whatever their birthdate. In conclusion, we propose that resilience to cognitive aging is associated with responsiveness of neurons born during adult life. These data add to our current knowledge by showing that the aging of memory abilities stems not only from the number but also from the responsiveness of adult-born neurons.


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Short- and long-term habituation of photonegative and exploratory responses in the flatworm planaria (Dugesia)

Apa Psycnet



Two experiments address the habituation of photonegative and exploratory responses in the flatworm planaria (Dugesia). Planarians possess a well-documented photonegative response; Experiment 1 showed that repeated exposures to a bright light source with short inter trial intervals (ITIs) within 1 experimental session gradually weakens the unconditioned photonegative response. In addition, it was found that presentation of an unexpected arousal-increasing stimulus (dropped water or a shock) temporarily re-establishes the photonegative response. Experiment 2 addressed the development of long-term habituation; we recorded the locomotor activity of the animals exposed to an inescapable bright light. Experiments 2A and 2B showed that planarians develop long-term habituation but only when they were trained in relatively novel contexts; when they were trained in familiar contexts (in surfaces similar to the ones in the home) the development of habituation was severely impaired. The results are discussed by reference to the theory of short- and long-term habituation put forward by Allan R. Wagner (Wagner, 1976), highlighting the impact that this theory has had in the research of invertebrate learning. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)


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Heat shock disrupts expression of excitatory and extinction memories in planaria: Interaction with amount of exposure

Behavioural Processes




• We trained Planaria in CPP and gave Heat Shock (HS) following memory reactivation.
• We varied the amount of exposure (4, 10, 16) sessions before reactivation plus HS.
• HS produced amnesia of CPP excitation after 4 sessions, and of extinction after 16.
• HS after 10 sessions (i.e., intermediate exposure) had no effect.
• The pattern replicates in planaria (an invertebrate) findings in rodents and humans.



In planarians, as seen in rodents, natural reinforcers (sucrose) and drugs of abuse support Conditioned Place Preference (CPP), which is a form of Pavlovian learning to examine the rewarding effects of natural reinforcers and drugs of abuse. Using this preparation, we have previously observed acquisition, extinction and reinstatement of sucrose CPP. In the present experiments, we used planaria to investigate the amnestic effects of Heat Shock (HS, a known stressor in planaria) following different amounts of CPP extinction sessions. Experiment 1 showed that planarians developed a CPP response to a sucrose-paired surface. Heat shock, when given in conjunction with exposure to the sucrose-paired surface, produced amnesia as assessed by a subsequent sucrose reinstatement test. We interpreted that the amnesic effect of HS was due to HS affecting the dominant excitatory memory at the time of HS exposure. Thus, we hypothesized that after extensive extinction training (10 exposures), HS would lead to recovery from extinction (when the new inhibitory memory is dominant at the time of HS exposure). Experiment 2 explored this possibility and showed that given HS following 10 extinction sessions had no amnestic effect on the excitatory CPP response. In Experiment 3, we hypothesized that 16 extinction sessions would produce a stronger (and hence dominant) extinction inhibitory trace, which then would be vulnerable to HS. We observed that HS impaired the expression of the extinction memory following 16 exposures. These results reveal different effects of HS on CPP memories depending on the amount of extinction, and are fully consistent with the literature using rodents and humans. In addition, they suggest that planaria is a promising pre-clinical model to assess fundamental memory processes.


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Short- and long-term habituation of photonegative and exploratory responses in the flatworm planaria (Dugesia)

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition



Two experiments address the habituation of photonegative and exploratory responses in the flatworm planaria (Dugesia). Planarians possess a well-documented photonegative response; Experiment 1 showed that repeated exposures to a bright light source with short inter trial intervals (ITIs) within 1 experimental session gradually weakens the unconditioned photonegative response. In addition, it was found that presentation of an unexpected arousal-increasing stimulus (dropped water or a shock) temporarily re-establishes the photonegative response. Experiment 2 addressed the development of long-term habituation; we recorded the locomotor activity of the animals exposed to an inescapable bright light. Experiments 2A and 2B showed that planarians develop long-term habituation but only when they were trained in relatively novel contexts; when they were trained in familiar contexts (in surfaces similar to the ones in the home) the development of habituation was severely impaired. The results are discussed by reference to the theory of short- and long-term habituation put forward by Allan R. Wagner (Wagner, 1976), highlighting the impact that this theory has had in the research of invertebrate learning. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)


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Dopaminergic neurons regenerate following chemogenetic ablation in the olfactory bulb of adult Zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Scientific Reports



Adult zebrafish have the ability to regenerate cells of the central nervous system. However, few neuronal regeneration studies in adult zebrafish addressed their ability to regenerate specific types of neurons following cell specific ablation. We show here that treatment of transgenic Tg(dat:CFP-NTR) adult zebrafish with the prodrug metronidazole (Mtz) according to our administration regimen predominantly ablates dopamine (DA) neurons within the olfactory bulb (OB) of adult fish. Loss of DA neurons was accompanied by an impaired olfaction phenotype, as early as 1-week post-treatment, in which fish were unable to sense the presence of the repulsive stimulus cadaverine. The olfactory impairment was reversed within 45 days and coincided with the recovery of DA neuron counts in the OB. A multi-label pulse-chase analysis with BrdU and EdU over the first seventeen days-post Mtz exposure showed that newly formed DA neurons were recruited within the first nine days following exposure and led to functional and morphological recovery of the OB.


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The effects of voluntary running on cerebrovascular morphology and spatial short-term memory in a mouse model of amyloidosis




Physical activity has been correlated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline, including that associated with vascular dementia, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD); recent literature suggests this may in part result from benefits to the cerebrovascular network. Using a transgenic (Tg) mouse model of AD, we evaluated the effect of running on cortical and hippocampal vascular morphology, cerebral amyloid angiopathy, amyloid plaque load, and spatial memory. TgCRND8 mice present with progressive amyloid pathology, advancing from the cortex to the hippocampus in a time-dependent manner. We postulated that the characteristic progression of pathology could lead to differential, time-dependent effects of physical activity on vascular morphology in these brain regions at 6 months of age. We used two-photon fluorescent microscopy and 3D vessel tracking to characterize vascular and amyloid pathology in sedentary TgCRND8 mice compared those who have a history of physical activity (unlimited access to a running wheel, from 3 to 6 months of age). In sedentary TgCRND8 mice, capillary density was found to be lower in the cortex and higher in the hippocampus compared to non-transgenic (nonTg) littermates. Capillary length, vessel branching, and non-capillary vessel tortuosity were also higher in the hippocampus of sedentary TgCRND8 compared to nonTg mice. Three months of voluntary running resulted in normalizing cortical and hippocampal microvascular morphology, with no significant difference between TgCRND8 and nonTg mice. The benefits of physical activity on cortical and hippocampal vasculature in 6-month old TgCRND8 mice were not paralleled by significant changes on parenchymal and cerebral amyloid pathology. Short-term spatial memory— as evaluated by performance in the Y-maze— was significantly improved in running compared to sedentary TgCRND8 mice. These results suggest that long-term voluntary running contributes to the maintenance of vascular morphology and spatial memory in TgCRND8 mice, even in the absence of an effect on amyloid pathology.


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Sigma-1 (σ1) receptor activity is necessary for physiological brain plasticity in mice

European Neuropsychopharmacology



The sigma-1 receptor (S1R) is a membrane-associated protein expressed in neurons and glia at mitochondria-associated endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes (MAMs). S1R interacts with different partners to regulate cellular responses, including ER stress, mitochondrial physiology and Ca2+ fluxes. S1R shapes cellular plasticity by directly modulating signaling pathways involved in inflammatory responses, cell survival and death. We here analyzed its impact on brain plasticity in vivo, in mice trained in a complex maze, the Hamlet test. The device, providing strong enriched environment (EE) conditions, mimics a small village. It has a central agora and streets expanding from it, leading to functionalized houses where animals can Drink, Eat, Hide, Run, or Interact. Animals were trained in groups, 4 h/day for two weeks, and their maze exploration and topographic memory could be analyzed. Several groups of mice were considered: non-trained vs. trained; repeatedly administered with saline vs. NE-100, a selective S1R antagonist; and wildtype vs. S1R KO mice. S1R inactivation altered maze exploration and prevented topographic learning. EE induced a strong plasticity measured through resilience to behavioral despair or to the amnesic effects of scopolamine, and increases in S1R expression and bdnf mRNA levels in the hippocampus; increases in neurogenesis (proliferation and maturation); and increases of histone acetylation in the hippocampus and cortex. S1R inactivation altered all these parameters significantly, showing that S1R activity plays a major role in physiological brain plasticity. As S1R is a major resident protein in MAMs, modulating ER responses and mitochondrial homeostasy, MAM physiology appeared impacted by enriched environment.


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STAT3 in the dorsal raphe gates behavioural reactivity and regulatesgene networks associated with psychopathology

Molecular Psychiatry



The signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) signalling pathway is activated through phosphorylation by Janus kinases in response to a diverse set of immunogenic and non-immunogenic triggers. Several distinct lines of evidence propose an intricate involvement of STAT3 in neural function relevant to behaviour in health and disease. However, in part due to the pleiotropic effects resulting from its DNA binding activity and the consequent regulation of expression of a variety of genes with context-dependent cellular consequences, the precise nature of STAT3 involvement in the neural mechanisms underlying psychopathology remains incompletely understood. Here, we focused on the midbrain serotonergic system, a central hub for the regulation of emotions, to examine the relevance of STAT3 signalling for emotional behaviour in mice by selectively knocking down raphe STAT3 expression using germline genetic (STAT3 KO) and viral-mediated approaches. Mice lacking serotonergic STAT3 presented with reduced negative behavioural reactivity and a blunted response to the sensitising effects of amphetamine, alongside alterations in midbrain neuronal firing activity of serotonergic neurons and transcriptional control of gene networks relevant for neuropsychiatric disorders. Viral knockdown of dorsal raphe (DR) STAT3 phenocopied the behavioural alterations of STAT3 KO mice, excluding a developmentally determined effect and suggesting that disruption of STAT3 signalling in the DR of adult mice is sufficient for the manifestation of behavioural traits relevant to psychopathology. Collectively, these results suggest DR STAT3 as a molecular gate for the control of behavioural reactivity, constituting a mechanistic link between the upstream activators of STAT3, serotonergic neurotransmission and psychopathology.


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Dysfunction of the serotonergic system in the brain of synapsin triple knockout mice is associated with behavioral abnormalities resembling synapsin-related human pathologies

Progress in Neuropsychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry



• Syn triple knockout (TKO) mice display hyperactivity and impaired social behavior.
• TKO mice show reduced dorsal raphe serotonergic neuronal activity.
• TKO mice have lower hippocampal serotonin levels.
• TKO mice are a model of humans diseases associated with Syn dysfunctions.


Synapsins (Syns) are a family of phosphoproteins associated with synaptic vesicles (SVs). Their main function is to regulate neurotransmitter release by maintaining a reserve pool of SVs at the presynaptic terminal. Previous studies reported that the deletion of one or more Syn genes in mice results in an epileptic phenotype and autism-related behavioral abnormalities. Here we aimed at characterizing the behavioral phenotype and neurobiological correlates of the deletion of Syns in a Syn triple knockout (TKO) mouse model. Wild type (WT) and TKO mice were tested in the open field, novelty suppressed feeding, light-dark box, forced swim, tail suspension and three-chamber sociability tests. Using in vivo electrophysiology, we recorded the spontaneous activity of dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN) serotonin (5-HT) and ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine (DA) neurons. Levels of 5-HT and DA in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of WT and TKO mice were also assessed using a High-Performance Liquid Chromatography. TKO mice displayed hyperactivity and impaired social and anxiety-like behavior. Behavioral dysfunctions were accompanied by reduced firing activity of DRN 5-HT, but not VTA DA, neurons. TKO mice also showed increased responsiveness of DRN 5-HT-1A autoreceptors, measured as a reduced dose of the 5-HT-1A agonist 8-OH-DPAT necessary to inhibit DRN 5-HT firing activity by 50%. Finally, hippocampal 5-HT levels were lower in TKO than in WT mice. Overall, Syns deletion in mice leads to a reduction in DRN 5-HT firing activity and hippocampal 5-HT levels along with behavioral alterations reminiscent of human neuropsychiatric conditions associated with Syn dysfunction.


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Noradrenergic activity in the olfactory bulbis a key element for the stability of olfactorymemory

The Journal of neuroscience



Memory stability is essential for animal survival when environment and behavioral state change over short or long time spans. The stability of a memory can be expressed by its duration, its perseverance when conditions change as well as its specificity to the learned stimulus. Using optogenetic and pharmacological manipulations in male mice, we show that the presence of noradrenaline in the olfactory bulb during acquisition renders olfactory memories more stable. We show that while inhibition of noradrenaline transmission during an odor-reward acquisition has no acute effects, it alters perseverance, duration and specificity of the memory. We use a computational approach to propose a proof of concept model showing that a single, simple network effect of noradrenaline on olfactory bulb dynamics can underlie these seemingly different behavioral effects. Our results show that acute changes in network dynamics can have long term effects that extend beyond the network that was manipulated.


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Impact of Social Isolation on the Behavioral, Functional Profiles, and Hippocampal Atrophy Asymmetry in Dementia in Times of Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19): A Translational Neuroscience Approach

Frontiers in Psychiatry


The impact of COVID-19 on the elderly is devastating, and nursing homes are struggling to provide the best care to the most fragile. The urgency and severity of the pandemic forces the use of segregation in restricted areas and confinement in individual rooms as desperate strategies to avoid the spread of disease and the worst-case scenario of becoming a deadly trap. The conceptualization of the post–COVID-19 era implies strong efforts to redesign all living conditions, care/rehabilitation interventions, and management of loneliness forced by social distance measures. Recently, a study of gender differences in COVID-19 found that men are more likely to suffer more severe effects of the disease and are over twice as likely to die. It is well-known that dementia is associated with increased mortality, and males have worse survival and deranged neuro-immuno-endocrine systems than females. The present study examines the impact of long-term isolation in male 3xTg-AD mice modeling advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and as compared to age-matched counterparts with normal aging. We used a battery of ethological and unconditioned tests resembling several areas in nursing homes. The main findings refer to an exacerbated (two-fold increase) hyperactivity and emergence of bizarre behaviors in isolated 3xTg-AD mice, worrisome results since agitation is a challenge in the clinical management of dementia and an important cause of caregiver burden. This increase was consistently shown in gross (activity in most of the tests) and fine (thermoregulatory nesting) motor functions. Isolated animals also exhibited re-structured anxiety-like patterns and coping-with-stress strategies. Bodyweight and kidney weight loss were found in AD-phenotypes and increased by isolation. Spleen weight loss was isolation dependent. Hippocampal tau pathology was not modified, but asymmetric atrophy of the hippocampus, recently described in human patients with dementia and modeled here for the first time in an animal model of AD, was found to increase with isolation. Overall, the results show awareness of the impact of isolation in elderly patients with dementia, offering some guidance from translational neuroscience in these times of coronavirus and post–COVID-19 pandemic. They also highlight the relevance of personalized-based interventions tailored to the heterogeneous and complex clinical profile of the individuals with dementia and to consider the implications on caregiver burden.


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Digging Signatures in 13-Month-Old 3xTg-AD Mice for Alzheimer's Disease and Its Disruption by Isolation Despite Social Life Since They Were Born

Frontiers in behavioural neurosciences


The severity of this pandemic's scenarios will leave significant psychological traces in low resistant and resilient individuals. Increased incidence of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder has already been reported. The loss of human lives and the implementation of physical distance measures in the pandemic and post-COVID scenarios may have a greater impact on the elderly, mostly in those with dementia, as OCD and other neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are quite prevalent in this population. Modeling NPS in animals relies in neuroethological perspectives since the response to new situations and traumatic events, critical for survival and adaptation to the environment, is strongly preserved in the phylogeny. In the laboratory, mice dig vigorously in deep bedding to bury food pellets or small objects they may find. This behavior, initially used to screen anxiolytic activity, was later proposed to model better meaningless repetitive and perseverative behaviors characteristic of OCD or autism spectrum disorders. Other authors found that digging can also be understood as part of the expression of the animals' general activity. In the present brief report, we studied the digging ethograms in 13-month-old non-transgenic and 3xTg-AD mice modeling normal aging and advanced Alzheimer's disease (AD), respectively. This genetic model presents AD-like cognitive dysfunction and NPS-like phenotype, with high mortality rates at this age, mostly in males. This allowed us to observe the digging pattern's disruption in a subgroup of 3xTg-AD mice that survived to their cage mates. Two digging paradigms involving different anxiogenic and contextual situations were used to investigate their behavior. The temporal course and intensity of digging were found to increase in those 3xTg-AD mice that had lost their “room partners” despite having lived in social structures since they were born. However, when tested under neophobia conditions, this behavior's incidence was low (delayed), and the temporal pattern was disrupted, suggesting worsening of this NPS-like profile. The outcomes showed that this combined behavioral paradigm unveiled distinct features of digging signatures that can be useful to study these perseverative behaviors and their interplay with anxiety states already present in the AD scenario and their worsening by naturalistic/forced isolation.


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Frameshift mutation in Shank3 protein in mice to detect ASD

Molecular autism


Major motor and gait deficits with sexual dimorphism in a Shank3 mutant mouse model







Contrasting findings were reported in several animal models with a Shank3 mutation used to induce various autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms. Here, we aimed at investigating behavioral, cellular, and molecular consequences of a C-terminal (frameshift in exon 21) deletion in Shank3 protein in mice, a mutation that is also found in clinical conditions and which results in loss of major isoforms of Shank3. A special focus was made on cerebellar related parameters.

Link to the publication : https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13229-020-00412-8

Immature adult-born neurons needed in remote memory reconsolidation



Adult-born neurons immature during learning are necessary for remote memory reconsolidation in rats



Memory reconsolidation, the process by which memories are again stabilized after being reactivated, has strengthened the idea that memory stabilization is a highly plastic process. To date, the molecular and cellular bases of reconsolidation have been extensively investigated particularly within the hippocampus. However, the role of adult neurogenesis in memory reconsolidation is unclear. Here, we combined functional imaging, retroviral and chemogenetic approaches in rats to tag and manipulate different populations of rat adult-born neurons. We find that both mature and immature adult-born neurons are activated by remote memory retrieval. However, only specific silencing of the adult-born neurons immature during learning impairs remote memory retrieval-induced reconsolidation. Hence, our findings show that adult-born neurons immature during learning are required for the maintenance and update of remote memory reconsolidation.


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Anxiety-like behavior increases when deleting S6K1 in mice



Inhibition of mTOR signaling by genetic removal of p70 S6 kinase 1 increases anxiety-like behavior in mice






The mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a ubiquitously expressed kinase that acts through two complexes, mTORC1 and mTORC2, to regulate protein homeostasis, as well as long lasting forms of synaptic and behavioral plasticity. Alteration of the mTOR pathway is classically involved in neurodegenerative disorders, and it has been linked to dysregulation of cognitive functions and affective states. However, information concerning the specific involvement of the p70 S6 kinase 1 (S6K1), a downstream target of the mTORC1 pathway, in learning and memory processes and in the regulation of affective states remains scant. To fill this gap, we exposed adult male mice lacking S6K1 to a battery of behavioral tests aimed at measuring their learning and memory capabilities by evaluating reference memory and flexibility with the Morris water maze, and associative memory using the contextual fear conditioning task. We also studied their anxiety-like and depression-like behaviors by, respectively, performing elevated plus maze, open field, light-dark emergence tests, and sucrose preference and forced swim tests. We found that deleting S6K1 leads to a robust anxious phenotype concomitant with associative learning deficits; these symptoms are associated with a reduction of adult neurogenesis and neuronal atrophy in the hippocampus. Collectively, these results provide grounds for the understanding of anxiety reports after treatments with mTOR inhibitors and will be critical for developing novel compounds targeting anxiety.


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