Loss of synaptic integrity in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC) may play an integral role in age-related cognitive decline. Previously, we showed age-related increases in the dendritic marker microtubule associated protein 2 (MAP-2) and the synaptic marker synaptophysin (SYN) in mice. Similarly, apolipoprotein E (apoE), involved in lipid transport and metabolism, and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a glia specific marker, increase with age in rodents. In this study, we assessed whether these four proteins show similar age-related changes in a nonhuman primate, the rhesus macaque. Free-floating sections from the PFC and hippocampus from adult, middle-aged, and aged rhesus macaques were immunohistochemically labeled for MAP-2, SYN, apoE, and GFAP. Protein levels were measured as area occupied by fluorescence using confocal microscopy as well as by Western blot. In the PFC and hippocampus of adult and middle-aged animals, the levels of SYN, apoE, and GFAP immunoreactivity were comparable but there was a trend towards higher MAP-2 levels in middle-aged than adult animals. There was significantly less SYN and more MAP-2, apoE, and GFAP immunoreactivity in the PFC and hippocampus of aged animals compared to adult or middle-aged animals. Thus, the age-related changes in MAP-2, apoE, and GFAP levels were similar to those previously observed in rodents. On the other hand, the age-related changes in SYN levels were not, but were similar to those previously observed in the aging human brain. Taken together, these data emphasize the value of the rhesus macaque as a pragmatic translational model for human brain aging.
Aging; Nonhuman primate; MAP-2; Synaptophysin; apoE
Exposure to methamphetamine during brain development impairs cognition in humans and rodents. In mice, these impairments are greater in females than males. Genetic factors, such as apolipoprotein E genotype, may modulate the cognitive effects of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine-induced alterations in the brain acetylcholine system may contribute to the cognitive effects of methamphetamine and may also be modulated by apolipoprotein E isoform. We assessed the long-term effects of methamphetamine exposure during brain development on cognitive function and muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in mice, and whether apolipoprotein E isoform modulates these effects. Mice expressing human apolipoprotein E3 or E4 were exposed to methamphetamine (5 mg/kg) or saline once a day from postnatal day 11-20 and behaviorally tested in adulthood. Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor binding was measured in the hippocampus and cortex. Methamphetamine exposure impaired novel location recognition in female, but not male, mice. Methamphetamine-exposed male and female mice showed impaired novel object recognition and increased number of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors in the hippocampus. The cognitive and cholinergic effects of methamphetamine were similar in apolipoprotein E3 and E4 mice. Thus, the cholinergic system, but not apolipoprotein E isoform, might play an important role in the long-term methamphetamine-induced cognitive deficits in adulthood.
Methamphetamine; acetylcholine; cognition; hippocampus; apolipoprotein E; mouse
We recently reported that in aged female rhesus macaques, spatial learning and memory correlates with circadian sleep-wake measures and hippocampal muscarinic type 1 (M1) receptor binding. To investigate if spatial memory also correlates with measures of immune function, we now assessed the magnitude of the adaptive immune response to vaccination in the same old female rhesus macaques. Cognitively characterized animals were classified as good spatial performers (GSP) or poor spatial performers (PSP) based on performance in the Spatial Foodport maze. The GSP group had higher frequency of CD8, but not CD4, interferon-γ (IFN-γ) producing cells following vaccination compared to the PSP group, suggesting a stronger CD8 T cell response in the GSP group. In addition, the number of CD-8 IFN-γ positive cells correlated with measures of sleep quality. Interestingly, the PSP group had a significantly higher antibody titer compared to the GSP group, and antibody titer negatively correlated with day-time activity. Thus, in aged female rhesus macaques, superior cognitive performance is correlated with a more robust CD8 T cell response but a reduced antibody response to vaccination.
spatial learning and memory; immune senescence; circadian activity
Prefrontal cortical (PFC) activity in the primate brain emerging from minicolumnar microcircuits plays a critical role in cognitive processes dealing with executive control of behavior. However, the specific operations of columnar laminar processing in prefrontal cortex (PFC) are not completely understood. Here we show via implementation of unique microanatomical recording and stimulating arrays, that minicolumns in PFC are involved in the executive control of behavior in rhesus macaque nonhuman primates (NHPs) performing a delayed-match-to-sample (DMS) task. PFC neurons demonstrate functional interactions between pairs of putative pyramidal cells within specified cortical layers via anatomically oriented minicolumns. Results reveal target-specific, spatially tuned firing between inter-laminar (layer 2/3 and layer 5) pairs of neurons participating in the gating of information during the decision making phase of the task with differential correlations between activity in layer 2/3 and layer 5 in the integration of spatial vs. object-specific information for correct task performance. Such inter-laminar processing was exploited by the interfacing of an online model which delivered stimulation to layer 5 locations in a pattern associated with successful performance thereby closing the columnar loop externally in a manner that mimicked normal processing in the same task. These unique technologies demonstrate that PFC neurons encode and process information via minicolumns which provides a closed loop form of “executive function,” hence disruption of such inter-laminar processing could form the bases for cognitive dysfunction in primate brain.
prefrontal cortex; inter-laminar correlated firing; nonhuman primates; columnar correlates of target selection; columnar correlates of task difficulty; spatial vs. object tuning
Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter acting via muscarinic and nicotinic receptors that is implicated in several cognitive functions and impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It is believed to especially affect the acquisition of new information, which is particularly important when behavior needs to be adapted to new situations and to novel sensory events. Categorization, the process of assigning stimuli to a category, is a cognitive function that also involves information acquisition. The role of ACh on categorization has not been previously studied. We have examined the effects of scopolamine, an antagonist of muscarinic ACh receptors, on visual categorization in macaque monkeys using familiar and novel stimuli. When the peripheral effects of scopolamine on the parasympathetic nervous system were controlled for, categorization performance was disrupted following systemic injections of scopolamine. This impairment was observed only when the stimuli that needed to be categorized had not been seen before. In other words, the monkeys were not impaired by the central action of scopolamine in categorizing a set of familiar stimuli (stimuli which they had categorized successfully in previous sessions). Categorization performance also deteriorated as the stimulus became less salient by an increase in the level of visual noise. However, scopolamine did not cause additional performance disruptions for difficult categorization judgments at lower coherence levels. Scopolamine, therefore, specifically affects the assignment of new exemplars to established cognitive categories, presumably by impairing the processing of novel information. Since we did not find an effect of scopolamine in the categorization of familiar stimuli, scopolamine had no significant central action on other cognitive functions such as perception, attention, memory, or executive control within the context of our categorization task.
macaque; learning; categorization; cognition; cognitive; muscarinic; acetylcholine; scopolamine
Spatiotemporal and recognition memory are affected by aging in humans and macaque monkeys. To investigate whether these deficits are coupled with atrophy of memory-related brain regions, T1-weighted magnetic resonance images were acquired and volumes of the cerebrum, ventricles, prefrontal cortex (PFC), calcarine cortex, hippocampus, and striatum were quantified in young and aged rhesus monkeys. Subjects were tested on a spatiotemporal memory procedure (delayed response [DR]) that requires the integrity of the PFC and a medial temporal lobe-dependent recognition memory task (delayed nonmatching to sample [DNMS]). Region of interest analyses revealed that age inversely correlated with striatal, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), and anterior cingulate cortex volumes. Hippocampal volume predicted acquisition of the DR task. Striatal volume correlated with DNMS acquisition, whereas total prefrontal gray matter, prefrontal white matter, and dlPFC volumes each predicted DNMS accuracy. A regional covariance analysis revealed that age-related volumetric changes could be captured in a distributed network that was coupled with declining performance across delays on the DNMS task. This volumetric analysis adds to growing evidence that cognitive aging in primates arises from region-specific morphometric alterations distributed across multiple memory-related brain systems, including subdivisions of the PFC.
age-related memory impairment; medial temporal lobe; MRI; prefrontal cortex; rhesus monkey
The status of cholinergic receptors in dementia is related to the question of potential cholinergic therapy. Whilst muscarinic receptor binding is generally reported to be normal or near normal, findings are reported which indicate substantial reductions of hippocampal nicotinic (high affinity nicotine) binding (occurring in conjunction with decreased choline acetyltransferase) in both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's but not Huntington's disease. A further indication that nicotinic receptor function may be abnormal in Alzheimer's disease is the extensive loss of an endogenous compound, detected for the first time in human brain, which inhibits normal nicotinic binding. Both receptor binding and the inhibitor are also substantially decreased with increasing age in the normal hippocampus.
Characterizing normal brain development in the rhesus macaque is a necessary prerequisite for establishing better nonhuman primate models of neuropathology. Structural magnetic resonance imaging scans were obtained on 37 rhesus monkeys (20 Male, 17 Female) between 10 and 64 months of age. Effects of age and sex were analyzed with a cross-sectional design. Gray matter (GM) and white matter (WM) volumes were determined for total brain and major cortical regions using an automatic segmentation and parcellation pipeline. Volumes of major subcortical structures were evaluated. Unlike neural maturation in humans, GM volumes did not show a postpubertal decline in most cortical regions, with the notable exception of the prefrontal cortex. Similar to humans, WM volumes increased through puberty with less change thereafter. Caudate, putamen, amygdala, and hippocampus increased linearly as did the corpus callosum. Males and females showed similar maturational patterns, although males had significantly larger brain volumes. Females had a proportionately larger caudate, putamen, and hippocampus, whereas males had both an absolute and relatively larger corpus callosum. The authors discuss the possible implications of these findings for research using the rhesus macaque as a model for neurodevelopmental disorders.
adolescence; cerebral cortex; Macaca mulatta; puberty; rhesus
PET imaging of the neuroreceptor systems in the brain has earned a prominent role in studying normal development, neuropsychiatric illness and developing targeted drugs. The dopaminergic system is of particular interest due to its role in the development of cognitive function and mood as well as its suspected involvement in neuropsychiatric illness. Nonhuman primate animal models provide a valuable resource for relating neurochemical changes to behavior. To facilitate comparison within and between primate models, we report in vivo D2/D3 binding in a large cohort of adolescent rhesus monkeys.
In this work, the in vivo D2/D3 dopamine receptor availability was measured in a cohort of 33 rhesus monkeys in the adolescent stage of development (3.2 – 5.3 years). Both striatal and extrastriatal D2/D3 binding were measured using [F-18]fallypride with a high resolution small animal PET scanner. The distribution volume ratio (DVR) was measured for all subjects and group comparisons of D2/D3 binding among the cohort were made based on age and sex. Because two sequential studies were acquired from a single [F-18]fallypride batch, the effect of competing (unlabeled) ligand mass was also investigated.
Among this cohort, the rank order of regional D2/D3 receptor binding did not vary from previous studies with adult rhesus monkeys, with: putamen > caudate > ventral striatum > amygdala ~ substantia nigra > medial dorsal thalamus > lateral temporal cortex ~ frontal cortex. The DVR coefficient of variation ranged from 14% – 26%, with the greatest variance seen in the head of the caudate. There were significant sex differences in [F-18]fallypride kinetics in the pituitary gland, but this was not observed for regions within the blood-brain barrier. Furthermore, no regions in the brain showed significant sex or age related differences in DVR within this small age range. Based on a wide range of injected fallypride mass across the cohort, significant competition effects could only be detected in the substantia nigra, thalamus, and frontal cortex, and were not evident above intersubject variability in all other regions.
These data represent the first report of large cohort in vivo D2/D3 dopamine whole brain binding in the adolescent brain and will serve as a valuable comparison for understanding dopamine changes during this critical time of development and provide a framework for creating a dopaminergic biochemical atlas for the rhesus monkey.
Acetylcholine (ACh), the first neurotransmitter to be identified, regulate the activities of central and peripheral functions through interactions with muscarinic receptors. Changes in muscarinic acetylcholine receptor (mAChR) have been implicated in the pathophysiology of many major diseases of the central nervous system (CNS). Previous reports from our laboratory on streptozotocin (STZ) induced diabetic rats showed down regulation of muscarinic M1 receptors in the brainstem, hypothalamus, cerebral cortex and pancreatic islets. In this study, we have investigated the changes of acetylcholine esterase (AChE) enzyme activity, total muscarinic and muscarinic M1 receptor binding and gene expression in the corpus striatum of STZ – diabetic rats and the insulin treated diabetic rats. The striatum, a neuronal nucleus intimately involved in motor behaviour, is one of the brain regions with the highest acetylcholine content. ACh has complex and clinically important actions in the striatum that are mediated predominantly by muscarinic receptors. We observed that insulin treatment brought back the decreased maximal velocity (Vmax) of acetylcholine esterase in the corpus striatum during diabetes to near control state. In diabetic rats there was a decrease in maximal number (Bmax) and affinity (Kd) of total muscarinic receptors whereas muscarinic M1 receptors were increased with decrease in affinity in diabetic rats. We observed that, in all cases, the binding parameters were reversed to near control by the treatment of diabetic rats with insulin. Real-time PCR experiment confirmed the increase in muscarinic M1 receptor gene expression and a similar reversal with insulin treatment. These results suggest the diabetes-induced changes of the cholinergic activity in the corpus striatum and the regulatory role of insulin on binding parameters and gene expression of total and muscarinic M1 receptors.
Acetylcholine (ACh), the first neurotransmitter discovered, participates in many CNS functions including sensory and motor processing, sleep, nociception, mood, stress response, attention, arousal, memory, motivation and reward. These diverse cholinergic effects are mediated by nicotinic (nAChR) and muscarinic (mAChR) type cholinergic receptors. The goal of this review is to synthesize a growing literature that supports the potential role of ACh as a treatment target for stimulant addiction. ACh interacts with the dopaminergic reward system in the ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (NAc) and prefrontal cortex (PFC). In the VTA, both nAChR and mAChR stimulate the dopaminergic system. In the NAc, cholinergic interneurons integrate cortical and subcortical information related to reward. In the PFC, the cholinergic system contributes to the cognitive aspects of addiction. Preclinical studies support a facilitative role of nicotinic agonists in the development of stimulant addiction. Muscarinic agonists seem to have an inhibitory role depending on the subtype of mAChR. In human studies acetylcholine esterase (AChE) inhibitors, which increase synaptic ACh levels, have shown promise for the treatment of stimulant addiction. Further studies testing the efficacy of cholinergic medications for stimulant addiction are warranted.
acetylcholine; dopamine; nicotinic; muscarinic; stimulant addiction; brain reward system
In nonhuman primates, anxiety levels are typically assessed by observing social hierarchies or behavior in an intruder task. As measures of anxiety might influence performance on a particular cognitive task, it is important to analyze these measures in the same room as used for the cognitive task. As we use a playroom for the spatial maze test, we classified elderly female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) monkeys, as bold or reserved monkeys based on the time spent in specific areas of this room. Based on their exploratory behavior in the playroom, bold monkeys were defined as animals that spent 20% more time in the unprotected areas of the room than in the protected areas, whereas reserved monkeys spent a comparable amount of time in both areas. MRI analyses showed that reserved monkeys had a smaller amygdala compared to bold monkeys but there were no group differences in hippocampal volumes. In addition, the amount of time spent in the corners of the room was negatively correlated with the right and total amygdala size. Finally, reserved monkeys showed a lower phMRI response to the muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine compared to the bold monkeys. Thus, in elderly female nonhuman primates measures of anxiety are associated with structural amygdala differences and hippocampal muscarinic receptor function.
anxiety; nonhuman primate; amygdala; hippocampus; scopolamine; phMRI
Attention exerts a strong influence over neuronal processing in cortical areas1,2. It selectively increases firing rates2-4 and affects tuning properties1,5, including changing receptive field locations and sizes3,6. Although these effects are well studied, their cellular mechanisms are poorly understood. To study the cellular mechanisms, we combined iontophoretic pharmacological analysis of cholinergic receptors with single cell recordings in V1 while rhesus macaque monkeys (Macaca mulatta) performed a task that demanded top-down spatial attention. Attending to the receptive field of the V1 neuron under study caused an increase in firing rates. Here we show that this attentional modulation was enhanced by low doses of acetylcholine. Furthermore, applying the muscarinic antagonist scopolamine reduced attentional modulation, whereas the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine had no systematic effect. These results demonstrate that muscarinic cholinergic mechanisms play a central part in mediating the effects of attention in V1.
M1 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChRs) may represent a viable target for treatment of disorders involving impaired cognitive function. However, a major limitation to testing this hypothesis has been a lack of highly selective ligands for individual mAChR subtypes. We now report the rigorous molecular characterization of a novel compound, BQCA, which acts as a potent, highly selective positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of the rat M1 receptor. This compound does not directly activate the receptor, but acts at an allosteric site to increase functional responses to orthosteric agonists. Radioligand binding studies revealed that BQCA increases M1 receptor affinity for acetylcholine. We found that activation of the M1 receptor by BQCA induces a robust inward current and increases spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) pyramidal cells, effects which are absent in acute slices from M1 receptor knockout mice. Furthermore, to determine the effect of BQCA on intact and functioning brain circuits, multiple single-unit recordings were obtained from the mPFC of rats that showed BQCA increases firing of mPFC pyramidal cells in vivo. BQCA also restored discrimination reversal learning in a transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease and was found to regulate non-amyloidogenic APP processing in vitro, suggesting that M1 receptor PAMs have the potential to provide both symptomatic and disease modifying effects in Alzheimer's disease patients. Together, these studies provide compelling evidence that M1 receptor activation induces a dramatic excitation of PFC neurons and suggest that selectively activating the M1 mAChR subtype may ameliorate impairments in cognitive function.
GPCR; muscarinic; acetylcholine receptor (AChR); prefrontal cortex; cognition; Alzheimer's disease
Aged individuals are more susceptible to infections due to a general decline in immune function broadly referred to as immune senescence. While age-related changes in the adaptive immune system are well documented, aging of the innate immune system remains less well understood, particularly in nonhuman primates. A more robust understanding of age-related changes in innate immune function would provide mechanistic insight into the increased susceptibility of the elderly to infection. Rhesus macaques have proved a critical translational model for aging research, and present a unique opportunity to dissect age-dependent modulation of the innate immune system. We examined age-related changes in: (i) innate immune cell frequencies; (ii) expression of pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) and innate signaling molecules; (iii) cytokine responses of monocytes and dendritic cells (DC) following stimulation with PRR agonists; and (iv) plasma cytokine levels in this model. We found marked changes in both the phenotype and function of innate immune cells. This included an age-associated increased frequency of myeloid DC (mDC). Moreover, we found toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists lipopolysaccharide (TLR4), fibroblast stimulating ligand-1 (TLR2/6), and ODN2006 (TLR7/9) induced reduced cytokine responses in aged mDC. Interestingly, with the exception of the monocyte-derived TNFα response to LPS, which increased with age, TNFα, IL-6, and IFNα responses declined with age. We also found that TLR4, TLR5, and innate negative regulator, sterile alpha and TIR motif containing protein (SARM), were all expressed at lower levels in young animals. By contrast, absent in melanoma 2 and retinoic acid-inducible gene I expression was lowest in aged animals. Together, these observations indicate that several parameters of innate immunity are significantly modulated by age and contribute to differential immune function in aged macaques.
nonhuman primate; innate immunity; myeloid; immune senscence; pattern recognition receptor
Caloric restriction (CR) reduces the pathological effects of aging and extends the lifespan in many species, including nonhuman primates, although the effect on the brain is less well characterized. We used two common indicators of aging, motor performance speed and brain iron deposition measured in vivo using MRI, to determine the potential effect of CR on elderly rhesus macaques eating restricted (n = 24, 13 males, 11 females) and standard diets (n= 17, 8 males, 9 females). Both the CR and control monkeys showed age-related increases in iron concentrations in globus pallidus (GP) and substantia nigra (SN), although the CR group had significantly less iron deposition in the GP, SN, red nucleus and temporal cortex. A Diet x Age interaction revealed that CR modified age-related brain changes, evidenced as attenuation in the rate of iron accumulation in basal ganglia and parietal, temporal, and perirhinal cortex. Additionally, control monkeys had significantly slower fine motor performance on the Movement Assessment Panel, which was negatively correlated with iron accumulation in left SN and parietal lobe, although CR animals did not show this relationship. Our observations suggest that the CR induced benefit of reduced iron deposition and preserved motor function may indicate neural protection similar to effects described previously in aging rodent and primate species.
Aging; Diet; Macaque; Motor; Basal Ganglia; Globus Pallidus; Substantia Nigra; Caudate; Putamen
Serotonin1A (5-HT1A) receptors are reported altered in the brain of subjects with major depressive disorder (MDD). Recent studies have identified transcriptional regulators of the 5-HT1A receptor and have documented gender-specific alterations in 5-HT1A transcription factor and 5-HT1A receptors in female MDD subjects. The 5′ repressor element under dual repression binding protein-1 (Freud-1) is a calcium-regulated repressor that negatively regulates the 5-HT1A receptor gene. This study documented the cellular expression of Freud-1 in the human prefrontal cortex (PFC) and quantified Freud-1 protein in the PFC of MDD and control subjects as well as in the PFC of rhesus monkeys chronically treated with fluoxetine. Freud-1 immunoreactivity was present in neurons and glia and was co-localized with 5-HT1A receptors. Freud-1 protein level was significantly decreased in the PFC of male MDD subjects (37%, p=0.02) relative to gender-matched control subjects. Freud-1 protein was also reduced in the PFC of female MDD subjects (36%, p=0.18) but was not statistically significant. When the data was combined across genders and analysed by age, the decrease in Freud-1 protein level was greater in the younger MDD subjects (48%, p=0.01) relative to age-matched controls as opposed to older depressed subjects. Similarly, 5-HT1A receptor protein was significantly reduced in the PFC of the younger MDD subjects (48%, p=0.01) relative to age-matched controls. Adult male rhesus monkeys administered fluoxetine daily for 39 wk revealed no significant change in cortical Freud-1 or 5-HT1A receptor proteins compared to vehicle-treated control monkeys. Reduced protein expression of Freud-1 in MDD subjects may reflect dysregulation of this transcription factor, which may contribute to the altered regulation of 5-HT1A receptors observed in subjects with MDD. These data may also suggest that reductions in Freud-1 protein expression in the PFC may be associated with early onset of MDD.
Major depression; prefrontal cortex; 5-HT1A receptors; serotonin; transcription factor
In Alzheimer’s disease (AD) there is a significant loss of locus coeruleus (LC) noradrenergic neurons. However, recent work has shown the surviving noradrenergic neurons to display many compensatory changes, including axonal sprouting to the hippocampus. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a forebrain region that is affected in dementia, and receives innervation from the LC noradrenergic neurons. Reduced PFC function can reduce cognition and disrupt behavior. Because the PFC is an important area in AD, we determined if noradrenergic innervation from the LC noradrenergic neurons is maintained and if adrenoreceptors are altered postsynaptically. Presynaptic PFC α2-adrenoreceptor (AR) binding site density, as determined by 3H-RX821002, suggests that axons from surviving noradrenergic neurons in the LC are sprouting to the PFC of subjects with dementia. Changes in postsynaptic α1-AR in the PFC of subjects with dementia indicate normal to elevated levels of binding sites. Expression of α1-AR subtypes (α1A- and α1D-AR) and α2C-AR subtype mRNA in the PFC of subjects with dementia is similar to what was observed in the hippocampus with one exception, the expression of α1A-AR mRNA. The expression of the α1A-AR mRNA subtype is significantly reduced in specific layers of the PFC in subjects with dementia. The loss of α1A-, α1D- and α2C-AR mRNA subtype expression in the PFC may be attributed to neuronal loss observed in dementia. These changes in postsynaptic AR would suggest a reduced function of the PFC. Consequence of this reduced function of the PFC in dementia is still unknown but it may affect memory and behavior.
norepinephrine; RX 821002; prazosin; α1-adrenoreceptor; α2-adrenoreceptor; sprouting; Alzheimer’s disease
The study provides evidence that endothelial M3 muscarinic acetylcholine receptors mediate cholinergic vasodilation in murine retinal arterioles via activation of nitric oxide synthase.
To identify the muscarinic acetylcholine receptor subtype that mediates cholinergic vasodilation in murine retinal arterioles.
Muscarinic receptor gene expression was determined in murine retinal arterioles using real-time PCR. To assess the functional relevance of muscarinic receptors for mediating vascular responses, retinal vascular preparations from muscarinic receptor–deficient mice were studied in vitro. Changes in luminal arteriole diameter in response to muscarinic and nonmuscarinic vasoactive substances were measured by video microscopy.
Only mRNA for the M3 receptor was detected in retinal arterioles. Thus, M3 receptor–deficient mice (M3R−/−) and respective wild-type controls were used for functional studies. Acetylcholine concentration-dependently dilated retinal arterioles from wild-type mice. In contrast, vasodilation to acetylcholine was almost completely abolished in retinal arterioles from M3R−/− mice, whereas responses to the nitric oxide (NO) donor nitroprusside were retained. Carbachol, an acetylcholinesterase-resistant analog of acetylcholine, also evoked dilation in retinal arterioles from wild-type, but not from M3R−/−, mice. Vasodilation responses from wild-type mice to acetylcholine were negligible after incubation with the non–subtype-selective muscarinic receptor blocker atropine or the NO synthase inhibitor Nω-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester, and were even reversed to contraction after endothelial damage with 3-[(3-cholamidopropyl)dimethylammonio]-1-propanesulfonate.
These findings provide evidence that endothelial M3 receptors mediate cholinergic vasodilation in murine retinal arterioles via activation of NO synthase.
The brain concentration of kynurenic acid (KYNA), a metabolite of the kynurenine pathway of tryptophan degradation and antagonist at both the glycine coagonist site of the N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor (NMDAR) and the α7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAChR), is elevated in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of individuals with schizophrenia. This increase may be clinically relevant because hypofunction of both the NMDAR and the α7nAChR are implicated in the pathophysiology, and especially in the cognitive deficits associated with the disease. In rat PFC, fluctuations in endogenous KYNA levels bidirectionally modulate extracellular levels of 3 neurotransmitters closely related to cognitive function (glutamate, dopamine, and acetylcholine). Moreover, behavioral studies in rats have demonstrated a causal link between increased cortical KYNA levels and neurocognitive deficits, including impairment in spatial working memory, contextual learning, sensory gating, and prepulse inhibition of the startle reflex. In recent human postmortem studies, impairments in gene expression and activity of kynurenine pathway enzymes were found in cortical areas of individuals with schizophrenia. Additional studies have revealed an interesting association between a sequence variant in the gene of one of these enzymes, kynurenine 3-monooxygenase, and neurocognitive deficits seen in patients. The emerging, remarkable confluence of data from humans and animals suggests an opportunity for developing a rational pharmacology by targeting cortical kynurenine pathway metabolism for cognition enhancement in schizophrenia and beyond.
kynurenic acid; endophenotype; cognition; schizophrenia; kynurenine 3-monooxygenase; prefrontal cortex; genetic association
The purpose of this study was to examine task-related changes in prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity during a dual-task in both healthy young and older adults and compare patterns of activation between the age groups. We also sought to determine whether brain activation during a dual-task relates to executive/attentional function and how measured factors associated with both of these functions vary between older and younger adults.
Thirty-five healthy volunteers (20 young and 15 elderly) participated in this study. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was employed to measure PFC activation during a single-task (performing calculations or stepping) and dual-task (performing both single-tasks at once). Cognitive function was assessed in the older patients with the Trail-making test part B (TMT-B). Major outcomes were task performance, brain activation during task (oxygenated haemoglobin: Oxy-Hb) measured by NIRS, and TMT-B score. Mixed ANOVAs were used to compare task factors and age groups in task performance. Mixed ANOVAs also compared task factors, age group and time factors in task-induced changes in measured Oxy-Hb. Among the older participants, correlations between the TMT-B score and Oxy-Hb values measured in each single-task and in the dual-task were examined using a Pearson correlation coefficient.
Oxy-Hb values were significantly increased in both the calculation task and the dual-task within patients in both age groups. However, the Oxy-Hb values associated with there were higher in the older group during the post-task period for the dual-task. Also, there were significant negative correlations between both task-performance accuracy and Oxy-Hb values during the dual-task and participant TMT-B scores.
Older adults demonstrated age-specific PFC activation in response to dual-task challenge. There was also a significant negative correlation between PFC activation during dual-task and executive/attentional function. These findings suggest that the high cognitive load induced by dual-task activity generates increased PFC activity in older adults. However, this relationship appeared to be strongest in participants with better baseline attention and executive functions.
Dual-task; Near-infrared spectroscopy; Executive function; Attentional function
Acetylcholine can affect cognitive functions and reward, in part, through activation of muscarinic receptors in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) to evoke changes in mesocorticolimbic dopaminergic transmission. Of the known muscarinic receptor subtypes present in the VTA, the M2 receptor (M2R) is most implicated in autoregulation, and also may play a heteroreceptor role in regulation of the output of the dopaminergic neurons. We sought to determine the functionally relevant sites for M2R activation in relation to VTA dopaminergic neurons by examining the electron microscopic immunolabeling of M2R and the dopamine transporter (DAT) in the VTA of rat brain. The M2R was localized to endomembranes in DAT-containing somatodendritic profiles, but showed a more prominent, size-dependent plasmalemmal location in non-dopaminergic dendrites. M2R also was located on the plasma membrane of morphologically heterogenous axon terminals contacting unlabeled as well as M2R or DAT-labeled dendrites. Some of these terminals formed asymmetric synapses resembling those of cholinergic terminals in the VTA. The majority, however, formed symmetric, inhibitory-type synapses, or were apposed without recognized junctions. Our results provide the first ultrastructural evidence that the M2R is expressed, but largely not available for local activation, on the plasma membrane of VTA dopaminergic neurons. Instead, the M2R in this region has a distribution suggesting more indirect regulation of mesocorticolimbic transmission through autoregulation of acetylcholine release and changes in the physiological activity or release of other, largely inhibitory transmitters. These findings could have implications for understanding the muscarinic control of cognitive and goal-directed behaviors within the VTA.
Acetylcholine; reward; cognition; synapse; electron microscopy
Hippocampal atrophy and reductions in basal cerebral blood volume (CBV), a hemodynamic correlate of brain function, occur with cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's disease but whether these are early or late changes remains unclear. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) assesses structure and function in the hippocampal formation. The objective of the present study was to estimate differences in the associations of hippocampus and entorhinal cortex volumes and CBV with memory function in early and late stages of cognitive impairment by relating these measures with memory function in demented and nondemented persons with detailed brain imaging and neuropsychological assessment.
Design and Setting
Multivariate regression analyses were used to relate entorhinal cortex volume, entorhinal cortex CBV, hippocampus volume and hippocampus-CBV with measures of memory performance in 231 elderly persons from a community-based cohort. The same measures were related with language function as a reference cognitive domain.
There was no association between entorhinal cortex volume or hippocampus-CBV and memory. Decreased hippocampus volume was strongly associated with worse performance in total recall, while lower entorhinal cortex CBV was significantly associated with lower performance in delayed recall. Excluding persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD), the associations of entorhinal cortex CBV with memory measures was stronger, while the association between hippocampus volume and total recall became non-significant.
These finding suggest that in the early stages of AD or in nondemented persons with worse memory ability functional/metabolic hippocampal hypofunction contribute to memory impairment, while in the later stages both functional and structural changes play a role.
entorhinal cortex cerebral blood volume; hippocampus volume; memory performance
Higher-order executive tasks such as learning, working memory, and behavioral flexibility depend on the prefrontal cortex (PFC), the brain region most elaborated in primates. The prominent innervation by serotonin neurons and the dense expression of serotonergic receptors in the PFC suggest that serotonin is a major modulator of its function. The most abundant serotonin receptors in the PFC, 5-HT1A, 5-HT2A and 5-HT3A receptors, are selectively expressed in distinct populations of pyramidal neurons and inhibitory interneurons, and play a critical role in modulating cortical activity and neural oscillations (brain waves). Serotonergic signaling is altered in many psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression, where parallel changes in receptor expression and brain waves have been observed. Furthermore, many psychiatric drug treatments target serotonergic receptors in the PFC. Thus, understanding the role of serotonergic neurotransmission in PFC function is of major clinical importance. Here we review recent findings concerning the powerful influences of serotonin on single neurons, neural networks, and cortical circuits in the PFC of the rat, where the effects of serotonin have been most thoroughly studied.
Prefrontal Cortex; Serotonin Receptors; Neural Oscillations; Pyramidal neuron; Fast-spiking interneuron; Electrophysiology
In rat hippocampus, estrogen receptor-alpha (ER-α) can initiate non-genomic signaling mechanisms that modulate synaptic plasticity in response to either circulating or locally synthesized estradiol (E). Here we report quantitative electron microscopic data demonstrating that ER-α is present within excitatory synapses in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) of young and aged ovariectomized female rhesus monkeys with and without E treatment. There were no treatment or age effects on the percentage of excitatory synapses containing ER-α, nor were there any group differences in distribution of ER-α within the synapse. However, the mean size of synapses containing ER-α was larger than unlabeled excitatory synapses. All monkeys were tested on delayed response (DR), a cognitive test of working memory that requires dlPFC. In young ovariectomized monkeys without E treatment, presynaptic ER-α correlated with DR accuracy across memory delays. In aged monkeys that received E treatment, ER-α within the postsynaptic density (30–60 nm from the synaptic membrane) positively correlated with DR performance. Thus, while the lack of group effects suggests that ER-α is primarily in synapses that are stable across age and treatment, synaptic abundance of ER-α is correlated with individual performance in two key age/treatment groups. These data have important implications for individual differences in the cognitive outcome among menopausal women and promote a focus on cortical estrogen receptors for therapeutic efficacy with respect to cognition.
estradiol; menopause; aging; cognition; dendritic spines; electron microscopy