The Cre-loxP system is widely used for making conditional alterations to the mouse genome. Cre-mediated recombination is frequently monitored using reporter lines in which Cre expression activates a reporter gene driven by a ubiquitous promoter. Given the distinct advantages of fluorescent reporters, we developed a transgenic reporter line, termed IRG, in which DsRed-Express, a red fluorescent protein (RFP) is expressed ubiquitously prior to Cre-mediated recombination and an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) following recombination. Besides their utility for monitoring Cre-mediated recombination, we show that in IRG mice red and green native fluorescence can be imaged simultaneously in thick tissue sections by confocal microscopy allowing for complex reconstructions to be created that are suitable for analysis of neuronal morphologies as well as neurovascular interactions in brain. IRG mice should provide a versatile tool for analyzing complex cellular relationships in both neural and nonneural tissues.†
Cre recombinase; loxP; conditional gene activation; DsRed-express; red fluorescent protein; enhanced green fluorescent protein; transgenic mice
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and frontoinsular cortex (FI) have been implicated in processing information across a variety of domains, including those related to attention and emotion. However, their role in rapid information processing, for example, as required for timely processing of salient stimuli, is not well understood. Here, we designed an emotional face priming paradigm and employed functional magnetic resonance imaging to elucidate their role in these mechanisms. Target faces with either neutral or fearful emotion were briefly primed by either neutral or fearful faces, or by blank ovals. Activation in the pregenual ACC and the FI, together with other regions, such as the amygdala, were preferentially activated in response to fearful face priming, suggesting that these regions are involved in the rapid processing of salient facial emotional information.
anterior cingulate cortex; emotion; fMRI; frontoinsular cortex; priming
Von Economo neurons (VENs) are defined by their thin, elongated cell body and long dendrites projecting from apical and basal ends. These distinctive neurons are mostly present in anterior cingulate (ACC) and fronto-insular (FI) cortex, with particularly high densities in cetaceans, elephants, and hominoid primates (i.e., humans and apes). This distribution suggests that VENs contribute to specializations of neural circuits in species that share both large brain size and complex social cognition, possibly representing an adaptation to rapidly relay socially-relevant information over long distances across the brain. Recent evidence indicates that unique patterns of protein expression may also characterize VENs, particularly involving molecules that are known to regulate gut and immune function. In this study, we used quantitative stereologic methods to examine the expression of three such proteins that are localized in VENs – activating-transcription factor 3 (ATF3), interleukin 4 receptor (IL4Rα) and neuromedin B (NMB). We quantified immunoreactivity against these proteins in different morphological classes of ACC layer V neurons of hominoids. Among the different neuron types analyzed (pyramidal, VEN, fork, enveloping, and other multipolar), VENs showed the greatest percentage that displayed immunostaining. Additionally, a higher proportion of VENs in humans were immunoreactive to ATF3, IL4Rα, and NMB than in other apes. No other ACC layer V neuron type displayed a significant species difference in the percentage of immunoreactive neurons. These findings demonstrate that phylogenetic variation exists in the protein expression profile of VENs, suggesting that humans might have evolved biochemical specializations for enhanced interoceptive sensitivity.
brain; evolution; ape; human; neuron
Dendrodendritic electrical signaling via gap junctions is now an accepted feature of neuronal communication in mammalian brain, whereas axodendritic and axosomatic gap junctions have rarely been described. We present ultrastructural, immunocytochemical, and dye-coupling evidence for “mixed” (electrical/chemical) synapses on both principal cells and interneurons in adult rat hippocampus. Thin-section electron microscopic images of small gap junction-like appositions were found at mossy fiber (MF) terminals on thorny excrescences of CA3 pyramidal neurons (CA3pyr), apparently forming glutamatergic mixed synapses. Lucifer Yellow injected into weakly fixed CA3pyr was detected in MF axons that contacted four injected CA3pyr, supporting gap junction-mediated coupling between those two types of principal cells. Freeze-fracture replica immunogold labeling revealed diverse sizes and morphologies of connexin-36-containing gap junctions throughout hippocampus. Of 20 immunogold-labeled gap junctions, seven were large (328–1140 connexons), three of which were consistent with electrical synapses between interneurons; but nine were at axon terminal synapses, three of which were immediately adjacent to distinctive glutamate receptor-containing postsynaptic densities, forming mixed glutamatergic synapses. Four others were adjacent to small clusters of immunogold-labeled 10-nm E-face intramembrane particles, apparently representing extrasynaptic glutamate receptor particles. Gap junctions also were on spines in stratum lucidum, stratum oriens, dentate gyrus, and hilus, on both interneurons and unidentified neurons. In addition, one putative GABAergic mixed synapse was found in thin-section images of a CA3pyr, but none were found by immunogold labeling, suggesting the rarity of GABAergic mixed synapses. Cx36-containing gap junctions throughout hippocampus suggest the possibility of reciprocal modulation of electrical and chemical signals in diverse hippocampal neurons.
CA3; dentate gyrus; interneuron; pyramidal neuron; principal cell; mossy fiber; gap junction
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) represent complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by impairments in reciprocal social interactions, abnormal development and use of language, and monotonously repetitive behaviors. With an estimated heritability of more than 90%, it is the most strongly genetically influenced psychiatric disorder of the young age. In spite of the complexity of this disorder, there has recently been much progress in the research on etiology, early diagnosing, and therapy of autism. Besides already advanced neuropathologic research, several new technological innovations, such as sleep functional MRI, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging (1H-MRS) divulged promising breakthroughs in exploring subtle morphological and neurochemical changes in the autistic brain. This review provides a comprehensive summary of morphological and neurochemical alterations in autism known to date, as well as a short introduction to the functional research that has begun to advance in the last decade. Finally, we mention the progress in establishing new standardized diagnostic measures and its importance in early recognition and treatment of ASD.
Autism; Autism spectrum disorder
Previous neuropathological studies documented that small vascular and microvascular pathology is associated with cognitive decline. More recently, we showed that thalamic and basal ganglia lacunes are associated with post-stroke depression and may affect emotional regulation. The present study examines whether this is also the case for late-onset depression.
We performed a detailed analysis of small macrovascular and microvascular pathology in the postmortem brains of 38 patients with late-onset major depression (LOD) and 29 healthy elderly controls. A clinical diagnosis of LOD was established while the subjects were alive using the DSM-IV criteria. Additionally, we retrospectively reviewed all charts for the presence of clinical criteria of vascular depression. Neuropathological evaluation included bilateral semiquantitative assessment of lacunes, deep white matter and periventricular demyelination, cortical microinfarcts and both focal and diffuse gliosis. The association between vascular burden and LOD was investigated using Fisher’s exact test and univariate and multivariate logistic regression models.
Neither the existence of lacunes nor the presence of microvascular ischaemic lesions was related to occurrence of LOD. Similarly, there was no relationship between vascular lesion scores and LOD. This was also the case within the subgroup of LOD patients fulfilling the clinical criteria for vascular depression.
Our results challenge the vascular depression hypothesis by showing that neither deep white matter nor periventricular demyelination is associated with LOD. In conjunction with our previous observations in stroke patients, they also imply that the impact of lacunes on mood may be significant solely in the presence of acute brain compromise.
brain ischaemia; elderly; mood; neuropathology; vascular depression
We have recently reported in male rats that medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) neurons that project to the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA) are resilient to stress-induced dendritic remodeling. The present study investigated whether this also occurs in female rats. This pathway was identified using the retrograde tracer Fast Blue injected into the BLA of ovariectomized female rats with estrogen replacement (OVX + E) and without (OVX + veh). Animals were exposed for 10 days either to 2-h immobilization stress or to home cage rest, after which layer III mPFC neurons that were either retrogradely labeled by Fast Blue or unlabeled were filled with Lucifer Yellow and analyzed for apical dendritic length and spine density. No dendritic remodeling occurred in unlabeled neurons from OVX + veh or OVX + E animals. In BLA-projecting neurons, however, stress had no effect on length in OVX + veh animals, but stressed OVX + E females showed greater dendritic length than controls at intermediate branches. Stress also caused an increase in spine density in all neurons in OVX + veh animals and a spine density increase in BLA-projecting neurons in OVX + E females. Estrogen also increased spine density on BLA-projecting neurons in unstressed animals. These data demonstrate both independent effects of estrogen on pyramidal cell morphology and effects that are interactive with stress, with the BLA-projecting neurons being sensitive to both kinds of effects.
connectivity; dendritic arborization; medial prefrontal cortex; neural plasticity; sex difference
We tested the hypothesis that early life stress would persistently compromise neuronal viability of the hippocampus of the grown nonhuman primate. Neuronal viability was assessed through ascertainment of N-acetyl aspartate (NAA) – an amino acid considered reflective of neuronal density/functional integrity – using in vivo proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI). The subjects reported herein represent a re-analysis of a sample of nineteen adult male bonnet macaques that had been reared in infancy under induced stress by maternal variable foraging demand (VFD) (N = 10) or control rearing conditions (N = 9). The MRSI spectral readings were recorded using a GE 1.5 Tesla machine under anesthesia. Relative NAA values were derived using NAA as numerator and both choline (Cho) or creatine (Cr) as denominators. Left medial temporal lobe (MTL) NAA/Cho but not NAA/Cr was decreased in VFD subjects versus controls. An MTL NAA/Cho ratio deficit remained significant when controlling for multiple confounding variables. Regression analyses suggested that the NAA/Choline finding was due to independently low left NAA and high left choline. Right MTL showed no rearing effects for NAA, but right NAA was positively related to body mass, irrespective of denominator. The current data indicate that decreased left MTL NAA/Cho may reflect low neuronal viability of the hippocampus following early life stress in VFD-reared versus normally-reared subjects. Given the importance of the hippocampus in stress-mediated toxicity, validation of these data using absolute quantification is suggested and correlative neurohistological studies of hippocampus are warranted.
Early-Life Stress; Nonhuman Primate; Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; Hippocampus; N-Acetyl-Aspartate; Brain laterality
Multisynaptic boutons (MSBs) are presynaptic boutons in contact with multiple postsynaptic partners. Although MSB synapses have been studied with static imaging techniques such as electron microscopy (EM), the dynamics of individual MSB synapses have not been directly evaluated. It is known that the number of MSB synapses increases with synaptogenesis and plasticity but the formation, behavior, and fate of individual MSB synapses remains largely unknown. To address this, we developed a means of live imaging MSB synapses to observe them directly over time. With time lapse confocal microscopy of GFP-filled dendrites in contact with VAMP2-DsRed-labeled boutons, we recorded both MSBs and their contacting spines hourly over 15 or more hours. Our live microscopy showed that, compared to spines contacting single synaptic boutons (SSBs), MSB-contacting spines exhibit elevated dynamic behavior. These results are consistent with the idea that MSBs serve as intermediates in synaptic development and plasticity.
In this study, we assessed the possibility that humans differ from other primate species in the supply of dopamine to the frontal cortex. To this end, quantitative comparative analyses were performed among humans, chimpanzees, and macaques using immunohistochemical methods to visualize tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive axons within the cerebral cortex. Axon densities and neuron densities were quantified using computer-assisted stereology. Areas 9 and 32 were chosen for evaluation due to their roles in higher-order executive functions and theory of mind, respectively. Primary motor cortex (area 4) was also evaluated because it is not directly associated with cognition. We did not find an overt quantitative increase in cortical dopaminergic innervation in humans relative to the other primates examined. However, several differences in cortical dopaminergic innervation were observed among species which may have functional implications. Specifically, humans exhibited a sublaminar pattern of innervation in layer I of areas 9 and 32 that differed from that of macaques and chimpanzees. Analysis of axon length density to neuron density among species revealed that humans and chimpanzees together deviated from macaques in having increased dopaminergic afferents in layers III and V/VI of areas 9 and 32, but there were no phylogenetic differences in area 4. Finally, morphological specializations of axon coils that may be indicative of cortical plasticity events were observed in humans and chimpanzees, but not macaques. Our findings suggest significant modifications of dopamine’s role in cortical organization occurred in the evolution of the apes, with further changes in the descent of humans.
tyrosine hydroxylase; prefrontal cortex; area 9; area 32; area 4; human evolution
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the anterior limb of the internal capsule (ALIC) may be effective in treating depression. Parental verbal abuse has been linked to decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) of white matter and reduced FA correlated with depression and anxiety scores. Utilizing a nonhuman primate model of mood and anxiety disorders following disrupted mother-infant attachment, we examined whether adverse rearing conditions lead to white matter impairment of the ALIC.
We examined white matter integrity using Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) on a 3T-MRI. Twenty-one adult male Bonnet macaques participated in this study: 12 were reared under adverse [variable foraging demand (VFD)] conditions whereas 9 were reared under normative conditions. We examined ALIC, posterior limb of the internal capsule (PLIC) and occipital white matter.
VFD rearing was associated with significant reductions in FA in the ALIC with no changes evident in the PLIC or occipital cortex white matter.
Adverse rearing in monkeys persistently impaired frontal white matter tract integrity, a novel substrate for understanding affective susceptibility.
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter integrity; variable foraging demand
Human language is distinctive compared with the communication systems of other species. Yet, several questions concerning its emergence and evolution remain unresolved. As a means of evaluating the neuroanatomical changes relevant to language that accompanied divergence from the last common ancestor of chimpanzees, bonobos and humans, we defined the cytoarchitectonic boundaries of area Tpt, a component of Wernicke's area, in 12 common chimpanzee brains and used design-based stereologic methods to estimate regional volumes, total neuron number and neuron density. In addition, we created a probabilistic map of the location of area Tpt in a template chimpanzee brain coordinate space. Our results show that chimpanzees display significant population-level leftward asymmetry of area Tpt in terms of neuron number, with volume asymmetry approaching significance. Furthermore, asymmetry in the number of neurons in area Tpt was positively correlated with asymmetry of neuron numbers in Brodmann's area 45, a component of Broca's frontal language region. Our findings support the conclusion that leftward asymmetry of Wernicke's area originated prior to the appearance of modern human language and before our divergence from the last common ancestor. Moreover, this study provides the first evidence of covariance between asymmetry of anterior and posterior cortical regions that in humans are important to language and other higher order cognitive functions.
cytoarchitecture; chimpanzee; evolution; Wernicke's area; asymmetry
This review summarizes the scientific talks presented at the conference “Therapeutics for Cognitive Aging,” hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences and the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation on May 15, 2009. Attended by scientists from industry and academia, as well as by a number of lay people—approximately 200 in all—the conference specifically tackled the many aspects of developing therapeutic interventions for cognitive impairment. Discussion also focused on how to define cognitive aging and whether it should be considered a treatable, tractable disease.
The role of the prefrontal cortex as an executive oversight of posterior brain regions raises the question of the extent to which the anterior regions of the brain interconnect with the posterior regions. The aim of this study is to test the complexity of rostral white matter tracts, which connect anterior and posterior brain regions, in comparison to caudal white matter tracts and the corpus callosum. Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is a modality that measures fractional anisotropy (FA). Higher white matter complexity could result in a decrease of FA, possibly through denser intersection of fiber tracts. DTI was used to determine regional FA in 9 healthy bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata). Four regions of interest were included: anterior and posterior limbs of the internal capsule, the occipital lobe white matter, and the corpus callosum. FA of the anterior limbs of the internal capsule was lowest compared to all other regions of interest (Newman-Keuls (N-K); p < 0.0001), whereas FA of the corpus callosum was highest (N-K; p < 0.0001). The posterior limbs of the internal capsule and the occipital white matter were not distinguishable but exhibited intermediate FA in comparison to the former (N-K; p < 0.0001) and the latter (N-K; p < 0.0001). The current study demonstrates that FA, a measure of white matter complexity, can vary markedly as a function of region of interest. Moreover, validation of these findings using neurohistological studies and replication in human samples appears warranted.
Diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; white matter; gap junctions; nonhuman primates; neuroimaging; neurodevelopment
Myelin abnormalities exist in schizophrenia leading to the hypothesis that oligodendrocyte dysfunction plays a role in the pathophysiology of the disease. The expression of the mRNA for the peripheral myelin protein-22 (PMP-22) is decreased in schizophrenia and recent genetic evidence suggests a link between PMP-22 and schizophrenia. While PMP-22 mRNA is found in both rodent and human brain it has been generally thought that no protein expression occurs. Here we show that PMP-22 protein is present in myelin isolated from adult mouse and human brain. These results suggest that PMP-22 protein likely plays a role in the maintenance and function of central nervous system (CNS) myelin and provide an explanation for why altered PMP-22 expression may be pathophysiologically relevant in a CNS disorder such as schizophrenia.
Myelin; Peripheral myelin protein-22; Schizophrenia
Inhibitory interneurons participate in local processing circuits, playing a central role in executive cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex. Although humans differ from other primates in a number of cognitive domains, it is not currently known whether the interneuron system has changed in the course of primate evolution leading to our species. In this study, we examined the distribution of different interneuron subtypes in the prefrontal cortex of anthropoid primates as revealed by immunohistochemistry against the calcium-binding proteins calbindin, calretinin and parvalbumin. In addition, we tested whether genes involved in the specification, differentiation and migration of interneurons show evidence of positive selection in the evolution of humans. Our findings demonstrate that cellular distributions of interneuron subtypes in human prefrontal cortex are similar to other anthropoid primates and can be explained by general scaling rules. Furthermore, genes underlying interneuron development are highly conserved at the amino acid level in primate evolution. Taken together, these results suggest that the prefrontal cortex in humans retains a similar inhibitory circuitry to that in closely related primates, even though it performs functional operations that are unique to our species. Thus, it is likely that other significant modifications to the connectivity and molecular biology of the prefrontal cortex were overlaid on this conserved interneuron architecture in the course of human evolution.
language; theory of mind; prefrontal cortex; chimpanzee; great ape
To gain insight into ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) function and its potential role in AD pathology, we analyzed the expression of the cholesterol transporter ABCA1 in postmortem hippocampus from persons at different stages of dementia and AD associated neuropathology relative to cognitively intact normal donors by quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and Western blot. In this study clinical dementia rating (CDR) scores were used as a measure of dementia severity, whereas, Braak neuropathological staging and neuritic plaque density were used as an index of the neuropathological progression of AD. Correlation analysis showed that ABCA1 mRNA expression was significantly elevated at the earliest recognizable stage of dementia compared to persons with intact cognition. ABCA1 mRNA was also positively correlated with Braak neuropathological stages and neuritic plaque density counts. Additionally, ABCA1 mRNA levels showed robust correlation with dementia severity even after controlling for the confounding contribution of accompanying neuropathological parameters to ABCA1 mRNA expression. Western blot analyses showed that the differential expression observed at the transcriptional level is also reflected at the protein level. Thus, our study provides transcriptional and translational evidence that the expression of ABCA1, a key modulator of cholesterol transport across the plasma membrane, is dysregulated in the AD brain and that this dysregulation is associated with increasing severity of AD, whether measured functionally as dementia severity or neuropathologically as increased neuritic plaque and neurofibrillary tangle density.
Neural changes that occurred during human evolution to support language are poorly understood. As a basis of comparison to humans, we used design-based stereological methods to estimate volumes, total neuron numbers, and neuron densities in Brodmann's areas 44 and 45 in both cerebral hemispheres of 12 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), one of our species’ closest living relatives. We found that the degree of interindividual variation in the topographic location and quantitative cytoarchitecture of areas 44 and 45 in chimpanzees was comparable to that seen in humans from previous studies. However, in contrast to the documented asymmetries in humans, we did not find significant population-level hemispheric asymmetry for any measures of areas 44 and 45 in chimpanzees. Furthermore, there was no relationship between asymmetries of stereological data and magnetic resonance imaging–based measures of inferior frontal gyrus morphology or hand preference on 2 different behavioral tasks. These findings suggest that Broca's area in the left hemisphere expanded in relative size during human evolution, possibly as an adaptation for our species’ language abilities.
cytoarchitecture; evolution; great ape; handedness; stereology
There is growing clinical and neuropathologic evidence suggesting that cognitive decline in early Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is aggravated by a synergistic relationship between AD and cerebrovascular disease associated with cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Here we used the stereologic “Space Balls” method to investigate the relationships between AD pathology and cardiovascular risk factors in postmortem human brains of patients with hypertension and diabetes in two groups – one consisting of cases with AD diagnosis and one of cases without. Hippocampal CA1 and CA3 microvasculature length density estimates were generated to characterize quantitatively the contribution of cardiovascular risk factors to the severity of neuropathologic changes. Our main finding is that the mean and variance of length density values in the AD group were significantly increased from the non-AD group, regardless of the absence or presence of a cardiovascular risk factor. An additional finding is that in the AD group without a risk factor, dementia severity correlated with amount of length density change in the CA1 field—this correlation did not exist in the AD groups with risk factors. Our findings suggest a role for cardiovascular risk factors in quantifiable change of hippocampal CA1 field microvasculature, as well as suggest a possible role of cardiovascular risk factors in altering microvasculature pathology in the presence of AD.
Stereology; Space Balls; Cardiovascular risk factors; CA1; CA3; Alzheimer’s disease
We have demonstrated in a previous study that a high degree of worry in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) correlates positively with intelligence and that a low degree of worry in healthy subjects correlates positively with intelligence. We have also shown that both worry and intelligence exhibit an inverse correlation with certain metabolites in the subcortical white matter. Here we re-examine the relationships among generalized anxiety, worry, intelligence, and subcortical white matter metabolism in an extended sample. Results from the original study were combined with results from a second study to create a sample comprised of 26 patients with GAD and 18 healthy volunteers. Subjects were evaluated using the Penn State Worry Questionnaire, the Wechsler Brief intelligence quotient (IQ) assessment, and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (1H-MRSI) to measure subcortical white matter metabolism of choline and related compounds (CHO). Patients with GAD exhibited higher IQ’s and lower metabolite concentrations of CHO in the subcortical white matter in comparison to healthy volunteers. When data from GAD patients and healthy controls were combined, relatively low CHO predicted both relatively higher IQ and worry scores. Relatively high anxiety in patients with GAD predicted high IQ whereas relatively low anxiety in controls also predicted high IQ. That is, the relationship between anxiety and intelligence was positive in GAD patients but inverse in healthy volunteers. The collective data suggest that both worry and intelligence are characterized by depletion of metabolic substrate in the subcortical white matter and that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.
intelligence; anxiety; white matter; choline; magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging
Although substantial evidence indicates that the progression of pathological changes of the neuronal cytoskeleton is crucial in determining the severity of dementia in Alzheimer's disease (AD), the exact causes and evolution of these changes, the initial site at which they begin, and the neuronal susceptibility levels for their development are poorly understood. The current clinical criteria for diagnosis of AD are focused mostly on cognitive deficits produced by dysfunction of hippocampal and high-order neocortical areas, whereas non-cognitive, behavioural, and psychological symptoms of dementia such as disturbances in mood, emotion, appetite, and wake-sleep cycle, confusion, agitation, and depression, have been less considered. The early occurrence of these symptoms suggests brainstem involvement, and more specifically of the serotonergic nuclei. In spite of the fact that the Braak staging system and NIA-RI criteria do not include their evaluation, several recent reports drew attention to the possibility of selective and early involvement of raphe nuclei, particularly the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), in the pathogenesis of AD. Based on these findings of differential susceptibility and anatomical connectivity, a novel pathogenetic scheme of AD progression was proposed. Although the precise mechanisms of neurofibrillary degeneration still await elucidation, we speculated that cumulative oxidative damage may be the main cause of DRN alterations, as the age is the main risk factor for sporadic AD. Within such a framework, β–amyloid production is considered only as one of the factors (although a significant one in familial cases) that promotes molecular series of events underlying AD-related neuropathological changes.
aging; Alzheimer's disease; behavioural and psychological symptoms; cerebrospinal fluid; dorsal raphe nucleus; early diagnosis; fetal brain development; neurofibrillary degeneration; serotonin; tau protein
Chronic stress has been shown in animal models to result in altered dendritic morphology of pyramidal neurons of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). It has been hypothesized that the stress-induced dendritic retractions and spine loss lead to disrupted connectivity that results in stress-induced functional impairment of mPFC. While these alterations were initially viewed as a neurodegenerative event, it has recently been established that stress induced dendritic alterations are reversible if animals are given time to recover from chronic stress. However, whether spine growth accompanies dendritic extension remains to be demonstrated. It is also not known if recovery-phase dendritic extension allows for re-establishment of functional capacity. The goal of this study, therefore, was to characterize the structural and functional effects of chronic stress and recovery on the infralimbic (IL) region of the rat mPFC. We compared neuronal morphology of layer V IL pyramidal neurons from animals subjected to 21 days of chronic restraint stress (CRS) to those that experienced CRS followed by a 21 day recovery period. Layer V pyramidal cell functional capacity was assessed by intra-IL long-term potentiation (LTP) both in the absence and presence of SKF38393, a dopamine receptor partial agonist and a known PFC LTP modulator. We found that stress-induced IL apical dendritic retraction and spine loss co-occur with receptor-mediated impairments to catecholaminergic facilitation of synaptic plasticity. We also found that while post-stress recovery did not reverse distal dendritic retraction, it did result in over-extension of proximal dendritic neuroarchitecture and spine growth as well as a full reversal of CRS-induced impairments to catecholaminergic-mediated synaptic plasticity. Our results support the hypothesis that disease-related PFC dysfunction is a consequence of network disruption secondary to altered structural and functional plasticity and that circuitry reestablishment may underlie elements of recovery. Accordingly, we believe that pharmacological treatments targeted at preventing dendritic retraction and spine loss or encouraging circuitry reestablishment and stabilization may be advantageous in the prevention and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.
infralimbic; dendritic morphology; dendritic spines; dopamine; long-term potentiation
Tracing the centerline of the dendritic arbor of neurons is a powerful technique for analyzing neuronal morphology. In the various neuron tracing algorithms in use nowadays, the competing goals of computational efficiency and robustness are generally traded off against each other. We present a novel method for tracing the centerline of a neuron from confocal image stacks, which provides an optimal balance between these objectives. Using only local information, thin cross-sectional layers of voxels (‘scoops’) are iteratively carved out of the structure, and clustered based on connectivity. Each cluster contributes a node along the centerline, which is created by connecting successive nodes until all object voxels are exhausted. While data segmentation is independent of this algorithm, we illustrate the use of the ISODATA method to achieve dynamic (local) segmentation. Diameter estimation at each node is calculated using the Rayburst Sampling algorithm, and spurious end nodes caused by surface irregularities are then removed. On standard computing hardware the algorithm can process hundreds of thousands of voxels per second, easily handling the multi-gigabyte datasets resulting from high-resolution confocal microscopy imaging of neurons. This method provides an accurate and efficient means for centerline extraction that is suitable for interactive neuron tracing applications.
Centerline Extraction; Neuron Tracing; Image Analysis; Medial Axis
Whereas neuronal numbers are largely preserved in normal aging, subtle morphological changes occur in dendrites and spines, whose electrotonic consequences remain unexplored. We examined age-related morphological alterations in 2 types of pyramidal neurons contributing to working memory circuits in the macaque prefrontal cortex (PFC): neurons in the superior temporal cortex forming “long” projections to the PFC and “local” projection neurons within the PFC. Global dendritic mass homeostasis, measured by 3-dimensional scaling analysis, was conserved with aging in both neuron types. Spine densities, dendrite diameters, lengths, and branching complexity were all significantly reduced in apical dendrites of long projection neurons with aging, but only spine parameters were altered in local projection neurons. Despite these differences, voltage attenuation due to passive electrotonic structure, assuming equivalent cable parameters, was significantly reduced with aging in the apical dendrites of both neuron classes. Confirming the electrotonic analysis, simulated passive backpropagating action potential efficacy was significantly higher in apical but not basal dendrites of old neurons. Unless compensated by changes in passive cable parameters, active membrane properties, or altered synaptic properties, these effects will increase the excitability of pyramidal neurons, compromising the precisely tuned activity required for working memory, ultimately resulting in age-related PFC dysfunction.
3-D morphometry; brain aging; dendritic spines; dendrites; electrotonic properties; pyramidal neurons; working memory