Insectivores represent extremes in mammalian body size and brain size, retaining various “primitive” morphological characteristics, and some species of Insectivora are thought to share similarities with small-bodied ancestral eutherians. This raises the possibility that insectivore brains differ from other taxa, including rodents and primates, in cellular scaling properties. Here we examine the cellular scaling rules for insectivore brains and demonstrate that insectivore scaling rules overlap somewhat with those for rodents and primates such that the insectivore cortex shares scaling rules with rodents (increasing faster in size than in numbers of neurons), but the insectivore cerebellum shares scaling rules with primates (increasing isometrically). Brain structures pooled as “remaining areas” appear to scale similarly across all three mammalian orders with respect to numbers of neurons, and the numbers of non-neurons appear to scale similarly across all brain structures for all three orders. Therefore, common scaling rules exist, to different extents, between insectivore, rodent, and primate brain regions, and it is hypothesized that insectivores represent the common aspects of each order. The olfactory bulbs of insectivores, however, offer a noteworthy exception in that neuronal density increases linearly with increasing structure mass. This implies that the average neuronal cell size decreases with increasing olfactory bulb mass in order to accommodate greater neuronal density, and represents the first documentation of a brain structure gaining neurons at a greater rate than mass. This might allow insectivore brains to concentrate more neurons within the olfactory bulbs without a prohibitively large and metabolically costly increase in structure mass.
allometry; brain size; comparative neuroanatomy; glia; neurons; evolution; olfactory bulb
Gorillas and orangutans are primates at least as large as humans, but their brains amount to about one third of the size of the human brain. This discrepancy has been used as evidence that the human brain is about 3 times larger than it should be for a primate species of its body size. In contrast to the view that the human brain is special in its size, we have suggested that it is the great apes that might have evolved bodies that are unusually large, on the basis of our recent finding that the cellular composition of the human brain matches that expected for a primate brain of its size, making the human brain a linearly scaled-up primate brain in its number of cells. To investigate whether the brain of great apes also conforms to the primate cellular scaling rules identified previously, we determine the numbers of neuronal and other cells that compose the orangutan and gorilla cerebella, use these numbers to calculate the size of the brain and of the cerebral cortex expected for these species, and show that these match the sizes described in the literature. Our results suggest that the brains of great apes also scale linearly in their numbers of neurons like other primate brains, including humans. The conformity of great apes and humans to the linear cellular scaling rules that apply to other primates that diverged earlier in primate evolution indicates that prehistoric Homo species as well as other hominins must have had brains that conformed to the same scaling rules, irrespective of their body size. We then used those scaling rules and published estimated brain volumes for various hominin species to predict the numbers of neurons that composed their brains. We predict that Homo heidelbergensis and Homo neanderthalensis had brains with approximately 80 billion neurons, within the range of variation found in modern Homo sapiens. We propose that while the cellular scaling rules that apply to the primate brain have remained stable in hominin evolution (since they apply to simians, great apes and modern humans alike), the Colobinae and Pongidae lineages favored marked increases in body size rather than brain size from the common ancestor with the Homo lineage, while the Homo lineage seems to have favored a large brain instead of a large body, possibly due to the metabolic limitations to having both.
Allometry; Brain size; Great apes; Human; Evolution, human; Neurons, number
Aging can result in a loss of neuronal cell bodies and a decrease in neuronal size in some regions of the brain and spinal cord. Motoneuron loss in the spinal cord is thought to contribute to the progressive decline in muscle mass and strength that occurs with age (sarcopenia). Swallowing disorders represent a large clinical problem in elderly persons; however, age-related alterations in cranial motoneurons that innervate muscles involved in swallowing have been understudied. We aimed to determine if age-related alterations occurred in the hypoglossal nucleus in the brainstem. If present, these changes might help explain alterations at the neuromuscular junction and changes in the contractile properties of tongue muscle that have been reported in older rats. We hypothesized that with increasing age, there would be a loss of motoneurons and a reduction in neuronal size and the number of primary dendrites associated with each hypoglossal motoneuron. Neurons in the hypoglossal nucleus were visualized with the neuronal marker NeuN in young (9–10 months), middle-aged (24–25 months), and old (32–33 months) male F344/BN rats. Hypoglossal motoneurons were retrograde labeled with injections of Cholera Toxin β into the genioglossus muscle of the tongue and visualized using immunocytochemistry. Results indicated that the number of primary dendrites of hypoglossal motoneurons decreased significantly with age, while no age-associated changes were found in the number or size of hypoglossal motoneurons. Loss of primary dendrites could reduce the number of synaptic inputs and thereby impair function.
deglutition; deglutition disorders; Sarcopenia; cranial motoneurons; genioglossus muscle; tongue; aging
What are the rules relating the size of the brain and its structures to the number of cells that compose them and their average sizes? We have shown previously that the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain structures increase in size as a linear function of their numbers of neurons and non-neuronal cells across 6 species of primates. Here we describe that the cellular composition of the same brain structures of 5 other primate species, as well as humans, conform to the scaling rules identified previously, and that the updated power functions for the extended sample are similar to those determined earlier. Accounting for phylogenetic relatedness in the combined dataset does not affect the scaling slopes that apply to the cerebral cortex and cerebellum, but alters the slope for the remaining brain structures to a value that is similar to that observed in rodents, which raises the possibility that the neuronal scaling rules for these structures are shared among rodents and primates. The conformity of the new set of primate species to the previous rules strongly suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to primates in general, including humans, and not only to particular subgroups of primate species. In contrast, the allometric rules relating body and brain size are highly sensitive to the particular species sampled, suggesting that brain size is neither determined by body size nor together with it, but is rather only loosely correlated with body size.
Allometry; Brain size; Evolution; Glia, number; Neurons, number; Primates
In larval lamprey, with increasing recovery times after a transection of the rostral spinal cord, there is a gradual recovery of locomotor behavior, and descending brain neurons regenerate their axons for progressively greater distances below the transection site. In the present study, spinal cord “conditioning lesions” (i.e., transections) were performed in the spinal cord at 30% body length (BL; normalized distance from the head) or 50% BL. After various “lesion delay times” (D), a more proximal spinal cord “test lesion” (i.e., transection) was performed at 10% BL, and then, after various recovery times (R), horseradish peroxidase was applied to the spinal cord at 20% BL to determine the extent of axonal regeneration of descending brain neurons. Conditioning lesions at 30% BL, lesion delay times of 2 weeks, and recovery times of 4 weeks (D-R = 2–4 group) resulted in a significant enhancement of axonal regeneration for the total numbers of descending brain neurons as well as neurons in certain brain cell groups compared to control animals without conditioning lesions. Experiments with hemiconditioning lesions, which reduce interanimal variability, confirmed that conditioning lesions do significantly enhance axonal regeneration and indicate that axotomy rather than diffusible factors released at the injury site is primarily involved in this enhancement. Results from the present study suggest that conditioning lesions “prime” descending brain neurons via cell body responses and enhance subsequent axonal regeneration, probably by reducing the initial delay and/or increasing the initial rate of axonal outgrowth.
axotomy; reticulospinal neurons; spinal cord injury; conditioning lesion; test lesion
In contrast to the adult brain, the adult spinal cord is a non-neurogenic environment. Understanding how to manipulate the spinal cord environment to promote the formation of new neurons is an attractive therapeutic strategy for spinal cord injury and disease. The cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1R) has been implicated as a modulator of neural progenitor cell proliferation and fate specification in the brain; however, no evidence exists for modulation of adult spinal cord progenitor cells. Using adult rat spinal cord primary cultures, we demonstrated that CB1R antagonism with AM251 significantly decreased the number of Nestin(+) cells, and increased the number of βIII tubulin(+) and DCX(+) cells, indicative of neuronal differentiation. AM251’s effect was blocked by co-application of the CB1R agonists, WIN 55, 212-2, or ACEA. Consistent with our hypothesis, cultures, and spinal cord slices derived from CB1R knock-out (CB1−/−) mice had significantly higher levels of DCX(+) cells compared to those derived from wild type (CB1+/+) mice, indicative of enhanced neuronal differentiation in CB1−/− spinal cords. Moreover, AM251 promoted neuronal differentiation in CB1+/+, but not in CB1−/− cultures. Since CB1R modulates synaptic transmission, and synaptic transmission has been shown to influence progenitor cell fate, we evaluated whether AM251-induced neuronal differentiation was affected by chronic inactivity. Either the presence of the voltage-dependent sodium channel blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX), or the removal of mature neurons, inhibited the AM251-induced increase in DCX(+) cells. In summary, antagonism or absence of CB1R promotes neuronal differentiation in adult spinal cords, and this action appears to require TTX-sensitive neuronal activity. Our data suggest that the previously detected elevated levels of endocannabinoids in the injured adult spinal cord could contribute to the non-neurogenic environment and CB1R antagonists could potentially be used to enhance replacement of damaged neurons.
CB1R; adult spinal cord cultures; neuronal differentiation
Dysfunction and death of spinal cord neurons are critical determinants of neurological deficits in various pathological conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS) and spinal cord injury. Yet, the molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal/axonal damage remain undefined. Our previous studies raised the possibility that a decrease in the levels of plasma membrane calcium ATPase isoform 2 (PMCA2), a major pump extruding calcium from neurons, promotes neuronal pathology in the spinal cord during experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of MS, and after spinal cord trauma. However, the causal relationship between alterations in PMCA2 levels and neuronal injury was not well established. We now report that inhibition of PMCA activity in purified spinal cord neuronal cultures delays calcium clearance, increases the number of nonphosphorylated neurofilament H (SMI-32) immunoreactive cells, and induces swelling and beading of SMI-32-positive neurites. These changes are followed by activation of caspase-3 and neuronal loss. Importantly, the number of spinal cord motor neurons is significantly decreased in PMCA2-deficient mice and the deafwaddler2J, a mouse with a functionally null mutation in the PMCA2 gene. Our findings suggest that a reduction in PMCA2 level or activity leading to delays in calcium clearance may cause neuronal damage and loss in the spinal cord.
autoimmune disease; ATP2B2; excitotoxicity; cytoskeleton
Brain size scales as different functions of its number of neurons across mammalian orders such as rodents, primates, and insectivores. In rodents, we have previously shown that, across a sample of 6 species, from mouse to capybara, the cerebral cortex, cerebellum and the remaining brain structures increase in size faster than they gain neurons, with an accompanying decrease in neuronal density in these structures [Herculano-Houzel et al.: Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006;103:12138–12143]. Important remaining questions are whether such neuronal scaling rules within an order apply equally to all pertaining species, and whether they extend to closely related taxa. Here, we examine whether 4 other species of Rodentia, as well as the closely related rabbit (Lagomorpha), conform to the scaling rules identified previously for rodents. We report the updated neuronal scaling rules obtained for the average values of each species in a way that is directly comparable to the scaling rules that apply to primates [Gabi et al.: Brain Behav Evol 2010;76:32–44], and examine whether the scaling relationships are affected when phylogenetic relatedness in the dataset is accounted for. We have found that the brains of the spiny rat, squirrel, prairie dog and rabbit conform to the neuronal scaling rules that apply to the previous sample of rodents. The conformity to the previous rules of the new set of species, which includes the rabbit, suggests that the cellular scaling rules we have identified apply to rodents in general, and probably to Glires as a whole (rodents/lagomorphs), with one notable exception: the naked mole-rat brain is apparently an outlier, with only about half of the neurons expected from its brain size in its cerebral cortex and cerebellum.
Rodents; Brain size; Evolution; Neurons; Glia; Glires
Increasing evidence suggests that the basic foundations of the self lie in the brain systems that represent the body. Specific sensorimotor stimulation has been shown to alter the bodily self. However, little is known about how disconnection of the brain from the body affects the phenomenological sense of the body and the self. Spinal cord injury (SCI) patients who exhibit massively reduced somatomotor processes below the lesion in the absence of brain damage are suitable for testing the influence of body signals on two important components of the self–the sense of disembodiment and body ownership. We recruited 30 SCI patients and 16 healthy participants, and evaluated the following parameters: (i) depersonalization symptoms, using the Cambridge Depersonalization Scale (CDS), and (ii) measures of body ownership, as quantified by the rubber hand illusion (RHI) paradigm. We found higher CDS scores in SCI patients, which show increased detachment from their body and internal bodily sensations and decreasing global body ownership with higher lesion level. The RHI paradigm reveals no alterations in the illusory ownership of the hand between SCI patients and controls. Yet, there was no typical proprioceptive drift in SCI patients with intact tactile sensation on the hand, which might be related to cortical reorganization in these patients. These results suggest that disconnection of somatomotor inputs to the brain due to spinal cord lesions resulted in a disturbed sense of an embodied self. Furthermore, plasticity-related cortical changes might influence the dynamics of the bodily self.
The human brain has often been viewed as outstanding among mammalian brains: the most cognitively able, the largest-than-expected from body size, endowed with an overdeveloped cerebral cortex that represents over 80% of brain mass, and purportedly containing 100 billion neurons and 10× more glial cells. Such uniqueness was seemingly necessary to justify the superior cognitive abilities of humans over larger-brained mammals such as elephants and whales. However, our recent studies using a novel method to determine the cellular composition of the brain of humans and other primates as well as of rodents and insectivores show that, since different cellular scaling rules apply to the brains within these orders, brain size can no longer be considered a proxy for the number of neurons in the brain. These studies also showed that the human brain is not exceptional in its cellular composition, as it was found to contain as many neuronal and non-neuronal cells as would be expected of a primate brain of its size. Additionally, the so-called overdeveloped human cerebral cortex holds only 19% of all brain neurons, a fraction that is similar to that found in other mammals. In what regards absolute numbers of neurons, however, the human brain does have two advantages compared to other mammalian brains: compared to rodents, and probably to whales and elephants as well, it is built according to the very economical, space-saving scaling rules that apply to other primates; and, among economically built primate brains, it is the largest, hence containing the most neurons. These findings argue in favor of a view of cognitive abilities that is centered on absolute numbers of neurons, rather than on body size or encephalization, and call for a re-examination of several concepts related to the exceptionality of the human brain.
brain scaling; number of neurons; human; encephalization
Neurons in the dorsal spinal cord play important roles in nociception and pain. These neurons receive input from peripheral sensory neurons and then transmit the signals to the brain, as well as receive and integrate descending control signals from the brain. Many molecules important for pain transmission have been demonstrated to be localized to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Further understanding of the molecular interactions and signaling pathways in the dorsal horn neurons will require a better knowledge of the molecular neuroanatomy in the dorsal spinal cord.
A large scale screening was conducted for genes with enriched expression in the dorsal spinal cord using DNA microarray and quantitative real-time PCR. In addition to genes known to be specifically expressed in the dorsal spinal cord, other neuropeptides, receptors, ion channels, and signaling molecules were also found enriched in the dorsal spinal cord. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry revealed the cellular expression of a subset of these genes. The regulation of a subset of the genes was also studied in the spinal nerve ligation (SNL) neuropathic pain model. In general, we found that the genes that are enriched in the dorsal spinal cord were not among those found to be up-regulated in the spinal nerve ligation model of neuropathic pain. This study also provides a level of validation of the use of DNA microarrays in conjunction with our novel analysis algorithm (SAFER) for the identification of differences in gene expression.
This study identified molecules that are enriched in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and provided a molecular neuroanatomy in the spinal cord, which will aid in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms important in nociception and pain.
Brain is one of the most energy demanding organs in mammals, and its total metabolic rate scales with brain volume raised to a power of around 5/6. This value is significantly higher than the more common exponent 3/4 relating whole body resting metabolism with body mass and several other physiological variables in animals and plants. This article investigates the reasons for brain allometric distinction on a level of its microvessels. Based on collected empirical data it is found that regional cerebral blood flow CBF across gray matter scales with cortical volume as , brain capillary diameter increases as , and density of capillary length decreases as . It is predicted that velocity of capillary blood is almost invariant (), capillary transit time scales as , capillary length increases as , and capillary number as , where is typically a small correction for medium and large brains, due to blood viscosity dependence on capillary radius. It is shown that the amount of capillary length and blood flow per cortical neuron are essentially conserved across mammals. These results indicate that geometry and dynamics of global neuro-vascular coupling have a proportionate character. Moreover, cerebral metabolic, hemodynamic, and microvascular variables scale with allometric exponents that are simple multiples of 1/6, rather than 1/4, which suggests that brain metabolism is more similar to the metabolism of aerobic than resting body. Relation of these findings to brain functional imaging studies involving the link between cerebral metabolism and blood flow is also discussed.
Determine the effects of body-weight-supported treadmill training (BWSTT) and tilt-table standing (TTS) on clinically assessed and self-reported spasticity, motor neuron excitability, and related constructs in individuals with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI).
Seven individuals with chronic SCI and spasticity performed thrice-weekly BWSTT for 4 weeks and thrice-weekly TTS for 4 weeks, separated by a 4-week wash-out. Clinical (Modified Ashworth Scale, Spinal Cord Assessment Tool for Spinal reflexes) and self-report (Spinal Cord Injury Spasticity Evaluation Tool, Penn Spasm Frequency Scale) assessments of spasticity, quality of life (Quality of Life Index Spinal Cord Injury Version – III), functional mobility (FIM Motor Subscale), plus soleus H-reflex were measured at baseline, after the first training session and within 2 days of completing each training condition.
In comparison with TTS, a single session of BWSTT had greater beneficial effects for muscle tone (effect size (ES) = 0.69), flexor spasms (ES = 0.57), and the H/M ratio (ES = 0.50). Similarly, flexor spasms (ES = 0.79), clonus (ES = 0.66), and self-reported mobility (ES = 1.27) tended to benefit more from 4 weeks of BWSTT than of TTS. Participation in BWSTT also appeared to be favorable for quality of life (ES = 0.50). In contrast, extensor spasms were reduced to a greater degree with TTS (ES = 0.68 for single session; ES = 1.32 after 4 weeks).
While both BWSTT and TTS may provide specific benefits with respect to spasticity characteristics, data from this pilot study suggest that BWSTT may result in a broader range of positive outcomes.
Paraplegia; Tetraplegia; Spasticity; Quality of life; Activity-based therapy; Muscle stretching exercises; Treadmill training; Tilt-table training; Spinal cord injury spasticity evaluation tool; Penn spasm frequency scale
In the last decade, carbon nanotube growth substrates have been used to investigate neurons and neuronal networks formation in vitro when guided by artificial nano-scaled cues. Besides, nanotube-based interfaces are being developed, such as prosthesis for monitoring brain activity. We recently described how carbon nanotube substrates alter the electrophysiological and synaptic responses of hippocampal neurons in culture. This observation highlighted the exceptional ability of this material in interfering with nerve tissue growth. Here we test the hypothesis that carbon nanotube scaffolds promote the development of immature neurons isolated from the neonatal rat spinal cord, and maintained in vitro. To address this issue we performed electrophysiological studies associated to gene expression analysis. Our results indicate that spinal neurons plated on electro-conductive carbon nanotubes show a facilitated development. Spinal neurons anticipate the expression of functional markers of maturation, such as the generation of voltage dependent currents or action potentials. These changes are accompanied by a selective modulation of gene expression, involving neuronal and non-neuronal components. Our microarray experiments suggest that carbon nanotube platforms trigger reparative activities involving microglia, in the absence of reactive gliosis. Hence, future tissue scaffolds blended with conductive nanotubes may be exploited to promote cell differentiation and reparative pathways in neural regeneration strategies.
A number of studies have indicated that plasma membrane calcium ATPases (PMCAs) are expressed in the brain and spinal cord and could play important roles not only in the maintenance of cellular calcium homeostasis but also in the survival and function of central nervous system cells under pathological conditions. The different regional and cellular distributions of the various PMCA isoforms and splice variants in the nervous system and the diverse phenotypes of PMCA knockout mice support the notion that each isoform might play a distinct role. Especially in the spinal cord, the survival of neurons and, in particular, motor neurons could be dependent on PMCA2. This is indicated by the knockdown of PMCA2 in pure spinal cord neuronal cultures that leads to cell death via a decrease in collapsing response mediator protein 1 levels. Moreover, the progressive decline in the number of motor neurons in PMCA2-null mice and heterozygous mice further supports this notion. Therefore, the reported reduction in PMCA2 mRNA and protein levels in the inflamed spinal cord of mice affected by experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model of multiple sclerosis, and after spinal cord contusion injury, suggests that changes in PMCA2 expression could be a cause of neuronal pathology and death during inflammation and injury. Glutamate excitotoxicity mediated via kainate receptors has been implicated in the neuropathology of both EAE and spinal cord injury, and has been identified as a trigger that reduces PMCA2 levels in pure spinal cord neuronal cultures through degradation of the pump by calpain without affecting PMCA2 transcript levels. It remains to be determined which other stimuli modulate PMCA2 mRNA expression in the aforementioned pathological conditions of the spinal cord.
Multiple sclerosis; Spinal cord injury; Neuroprotection; Neurodegeneration; Excitotoxicity; ATP2b2; Calpain; Glia
Cortical expansion, both in absolute terms and in relation to subcortical structures, is considered a major trend in mammalian brain evolution with important functional implications, given that cortical computations should add complexity and flexibility to information processing. Here, we investigate the numbers of neurons that compose 4 structures in the visual pathway across 11 non-human primate species to determine the scaling relationships that apply to these structures and among them. We find that primary visual cortex, area V1, as well as the superior colliculus (SC) and lateral geniculate nucleus scale in mass faster than they gain neurons. Areas V1 and MT gain neurons proportionately to the entire cerebral cortex, and represent fairly constant proportions of all cortical neurons (36 and 3 %, respectively), while V1 gains neurons much faster than both subcortical structures examined. Larger primate brains therefore have increased ratios of cortical to subcortical neurons involved in processing visual information, as observed in the auditory pathway, but have a constant proportion of cortical neurons dedicated to the primary visual representation, and a fairly constant ratio of about 45 times more neurons in primary visual than in primary auditory cortical areas.
Superior colliculus; Visual cortex; Lateral geniculate nucleus; V1; Area MT; Thalamus; Allometry; Brain size; Evolution
Physical exercise promotes neural plasticity in the brain of healthy subjects and modulates pathophysiological neural plasticity after sensorimotor loss, but the mechanisms of this action are not fully understood. After spinal cord injury, cortical reorganization can be maximized by exercising the non-affected body or the residual functions of the affected body. However, exercise per se also produces systemic changes – such as increased cardiovascular fitness, improved circulation and neuroendocrine changes – that have a great impact on brain function and plasticity. It is therefore possible that passive exercise therapies typically applied below the level of the lesion in patients with spinal cord injury could put the brain in a more plastic state and promote cortical reorganization. To directly test this hypothesis, we applied passive hindlimb bike exercise after complete thoracic transection of the spinal cord in adult rats. Using western blot analysis, we found that the level of proteins associated with plasticity – specifically ADCY1 and BDNF – increased in the somatosensory cortex of transected animals that received passive bike exercise compared to transected animals that received sham exercise. Using electrophysiological techniques, we then verified that neurons in the deafferented hindlimb cortex increased their responsiveness to tactile stimuli delivered to the forelimb in transected animals that received passive bike exercise compared to transected animals that received sham exercise. Passive exercise below the level of the lesion, therefore, promotes cortical reorganization after spinal cord injury, uncovering a brain-body interaction that does not rely on intact sensorimotor pathways connecting the exercised body parts and the brain.
Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to disruption of axonal architecture and macroscopic tissue loss with impaired information flow between the brain and spinal cord—the presumed basis of ensuing clinical impairment.
The authors used a clinically viable, multimodal MRI protocol to quantify the axonal integrity of the cranial corticospinal tract (CST) and to establish how microstructural white matter changes in the CST are related to cross-sectional spinal cord area and cortical reorganisation of the sensorimotor system in subjects with traumatic SCI.
Nine volunteers with cervical injuries resulting in bilateral motor impairment and 14 control subjects were studied. The authors used diffusion tensor imaging to assess white matter integrity in the CST, T1-weighted imaging to measure cross-sectional spinal cord area and functional MRI to compare motor task-related brain activations. The relationships among microstructural, macrostructural and functional measures were assessed using regression analyses.
Diffusion tensor imaging revealed significant differences in the CST of SCI subjects—compared with controls—in the pyramids, the internal capsule, the cerebral peduncle and the hand area. The microstructural white matter changes observed in the left pyramid predicted increased task-related responses in the left M1 leg area, while changes in the cerebral peduncle were predicted by reduced cord area.
The observed microstructural changes suggest trauma-related axonal degeneration and demyelination, which are related to cortical motor reorganisation and macrostructure. The extent of these changes may reflect the plasticity of motor pathways associated with cortical reorganisation. This clinically viable multimodal imaging approach is therefore appropriate for monitoring degeneration of central pathways and the evaluation of treatments targeting axonal repair in SCI.
Spinal cord trauma; motor cortex; functional neuroimaging; DWI; fMRI; functional imaging; MRI; health policy and practice; spasticity; rehabilitation; multiple sclerosis
Progressive recovery of rhythmic phrenic activity occurs over time after a spinal cord hemisection involving unilateral transection of anterolateral funiculi at C2 (SH). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) acting through its full-length tropomyosin related kinase receptor subtype B (TrkB.FL) contributes to neuroplasticity after spinal cord injury, but the specific cellular substrates remain unclear. We hypothesized that selectively targeting increased TrkB.FL expression to phrenic motoneurons would be sufficient to enhance recovery of rhythmic phrenic activity after SH. Several adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotypes expressing GFP were screened to determine specificity for phrenic motoneuron transduction via intrapleural injection in adult rats. GFP expression was present in the cervical spinal cord 3 weeks after treatment with AAV serotypes 7, 8, and 9, but not with AAV2, 6, or rhesus-10. Overall, AAV7 produced the most consistent GFP expression in phrenic motoneurons. SH was performed 3 weeks after intrapleural injection of AAV7 expressing human TrkB.FL-FLAG or saline. Delivery of TrkB.FL-FLAG to phrenic motoneurons was confirmed by FLAG protein expression in the phrenic motor nucleus and human TrkB.FL mRNA expression in microdissected phrenic motoneurons. In all SH rats, absence of ipsilateral diaphragm EMG activity was confirmed at 3 days post-SH, verifying complete interruption of ipsilateral descending drive to phrenic motoneurons. At 14 days post-SH, all AAV7-TrkB.FL treated rats (n = 11) displayed recovery of ipsilateral diaphragm EMG activity compared to 3 out of 8 untreated SH rats (p<0.01). During eupnea, AAV7-TrkB.FL treated rats exhibited 73±7% of pre-SH root mean squared EMG vs. only 31±11% in untreated SH rats displaying recovery (p<0.01). This study provides direct evidence that increased TrkB.FL expression in phrenic motoneurons is sufficient to enhance recovery of ipsilateral rhythmic phrenic activity after SH, indicating that selectively targeting gene expression in spared motoneurons below the level of spinal cord injury may promote functional recovery.
Primate models of spinal cord injury differ from rodent models in several respects, including the relative size and functional neuroanatomy of spinal projections. Fundamental differences in scale raise the possibility that retrograde injury signals, and treatments applied at the level of the spinal cord that exhibit efficacy in rodents, may fail to influence neurons at the far greater distances of primate systems. Thus, we examined both local and remote neuronal responses to neurotrophic factor-secreting cell grafts placed within sites of right C7 hemisection lesions in the rhesus macaque. Six months after gene delivery of BDNF and NT-3 into C7 lesion sites, we found both local effects of growth factors on axonal growth, and remote effects of growth factors reflected in significant reductions in axotomy-induced atrophy of large pyramidal neurons within the primary motor cortex. Further examination in a rodent model suggested that BDNF, rather than NT-3, mediated remote protection of corticospinal neurons in the brain. Thus, injured neural systems retain the ability to respond to growth signals over the extended distances of the primate CNS, promoting local axonal growth and preventing lesion-induced neuronal degeneration at a distance. Remote cortical effects of spinally-administered growth factors could “prime” the neuron to respond to experimental therapies that promote axonal plasticity or regeneration.
neurotrophic factors; spinal cord injury; non-human primate; axonal growth; motor cortex; neuroprotection
Expansion of the cortical gray matter in evolution has been accompanied by an even faster expansion of the subcortical white matter volume and by folding of the gray matter surface, events traditionally considered to occur homogeneously across mammalian species. Here we investigate how white matter expansion and cortical folding scale across species of rodents and primates as the gray matter gains neurons. We find very different scaling rules of white matter expansion across the two orders, favoring volume conservation and smaller propagation times in primates. For a similar number of cortical neurons, primates have a smaller connectivity fraction and less white matter volume than rodents; moreover, as the cortex gains neurons, there is a much faster increase in white matter volume and in its ratio to gray matter volume in rodents than in primates. Order-specific scaling of the white matter can be attributed to different scaling of average fiber caliber and neuronal connectivity in rodents and primates. Finally, cortical folding increases as different functions of the number of cortical neurons in rodents and primates, scaling faster in the latter than in the former. While the neuronal rules that govern gray and white matter scaling are different across rodents and primates, we find that they can be explained by the same unifying model, with order-specific exponents. The different scaling of the white matter has implications for the scaling of propagation time and computational capacity in evolution, and calls for a reappraisal of developmental models of cortical expansion in evolution.
white matter; number of neurons; allometry; brain size; cortical expansion; gyrification
The blood–spinal cord barrier (BSCB) regulates molecular exchange between blood and spinal cord. Pericytes are presumed to be important cellular constituents of the BSCB. However, the regional abundance and vascular functions of spinal cord pericytes have yet to be determined. Utilizing wild-type mice, we show that spinal cord pericyte capillary coverage and number compared with the brain regions are reduced most prominently in the anterior horn. Regional pericyte variations are highly correlated with: (1) increased capillary permeability to 350 Da, 40,000 Da, and 150,000 Da, but not 2,000,000 Da fluorescent vascular tracers in cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions and (2) diminished endothelial zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1) and occludin tight junction protein expression. Pericyte-deficient mutations (PdgfrβF7/F7 mice) resulted in additional pericyte reductions in spinal cord capillaries leading to overt BSCB disruption to serum proteins, accumulation in motor neurons of cyotoxic thrombin and fibrin and motor neuron loss. Barrier disruption in perciyte-deficient mice coincided with further reductions in ZO-1 and occludin. These data suggest that pericytes contribute to proper function of the BSCB at the capillary level. Regional reductions in spinal cord pericytes may provide a cellular basis for heightened spinal cord barrier capillary permeability and motor neuron loss.
blood–brain barrier; capillaries; endothelium; pericytes; vascular biology
Spinal cord injuries lead to impairments, which are accompanied by extensive reorganization of neuronal circuits caudal to the injury. Locomotor training can aid in the functional recovery after injury, but the neuronal mechanisms associated with such plasticity are only sparsely known. We investigated ultrastructurally the synaptic inputs to tibialis anterior motoneurons (MNs) retrogradely labeled in adult rats that had received a complete midthoracic spinal cord transection at postnatal day 5. A subset of the injured rats received locomotor training. Both γ- and α-MNs were studied. The total number of boutons apposing γ-MNs, but not α-MNs, was reduced after neonatal spinal cord transection. The proportion of inhibitory to excitatory boutons, however, was increased significantly in both α-MNs and γ-MNs in spinally transected rats, but with locomotor training returned to levels observed in intact rats. The specific densities and compositions of synaptic boutons were, however, different between all three groups. Surprisingly, we observed the atypical presence of both C- and M-type boutons apposing the somata of γ-MNs in the spinal rats, regardless of training status. We conclude that a neonatal spinal cord transection induces significant reorganization of synaptic inputs to spinal motoneurons caudal to the site of injury with a net increase in inhibitory influence, which is associated with poor stepping. Spinal cord injury followed by successful locomotor training, however, results in improved bipedal stepping and further synaptic changes with the proportion of inhibitory and excitatory inputs to the motoneurons being similar to that observed in intact rats.
During aortic surgery, interruption of spinal cord blood flow might cause spinal cord ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI). The incidence of spinal cord IRI after aortic surgery is up to 28%, and patients with spinal cord IRI might suffer from postoperative paraplegia or paraparesis. Spinal cord IRI includes two phases. The immediate spinal cord injury is related to acute ischemia. And the delayed spinal cord injury involves both ischemic cellular death and reperfusion injury. Inflammation is a subsequent event of spinal cord ischemia and possibly a major contributor to spinal cord IRI. However, the development of inflammatory mediators is incompletely demonstrated. And treatments available for inflammation in spinal cord IRI are insufficient. Improved understanding about spinal cord IRI and the development of inflammatory cells and cytokines in this process will provide novel therapeutic strategies for spinal cord IRI. Inflammatory cytokines (e.g., TNF-α and IL-1) may play an important role in spinal cord IRI. For treatment of several intractable autoimmune diseases (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis), where inflammatory cytokines are involved in disease progression, anti-inflammatory cytokine antagonist is now available. Hence, there is great potential of anti-inflammatory cytokine antagonist for therapeutic use of spinal cord IRI. We here review the mediators and several possibilities of treatment in spinal cord IRI.
We have examined the distribution of microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP2) in the lumbar segment of spinal cord, ventral and dorsal roots, and dorsal root ganglia of control and beta,beta'-iminodipropionitrile- treated rats. The peroxidase-antiperoxidase technique was used for light and electron microscopic immunohistochemical studies with two monoclonal antibodies directed against different epitopes of Chinese hamster brain MAP2, designated AP9 and AP13. MAP2 immunoreactivity was present in axons of spinal motor neurons, but was not detected in axons of white matter tracts of spinal cord and in the majority of axons of the dorsal root. A gradient of staining intensity among dendrites, cell bodies, and axons of spinal motor neurons was present, with dendrites staining most intensely and axons the least. While dendrites and cell bodies of all neurons in the spinal cord were intensely positive, neurons of the dorsal root ganglia were variably stained. The axons of labeled dorsal root ganglion cells were intensely labeled up to their bifurcation; beyond this point, while only occasional central processes in dorsal roots were weakly stained, the majority of peripheral processes in spinal nerves were positive. beta,beta'- Iminodipropionitrile produced segregation of microtubules and membranous organelles from neurofilaments in the peripheral nervous system portion and accumulation of neurofilaments in the central nervous system portion of spinal motor axons. While both anti-MAP2 hybridoma antibodies co-localized with microtubules in the central nervous system portion, only one co-localized with microtubules in the peripheral nervous system portion of spinal motor axons, while the other antibody co-localized with neurofilaments and did not stain the central region of the axon which contained microtubules. These findings suggest that (a) MAP2 is present in axons of spinal motor neurons, albeit in a lower concentration or in a different form than is present in dendrites, and (b) the MAP2 in axons interacts with both microtubules and neurofilaments.