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1.  Output Properties of the Cortical Hindlimb Motor Area in Spinal Cord-Injured Rats 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2015;32(21):1666-1673.
The purpose of this study was to examine neuronal activity levels in the hindlimb area of motor cortex following spinal cord injury (SCI) in rats and compare the results with measurements in normal rats. Fifteen male Fischer-344 rats received a 200 Kdyn contusion injury in the thoracic cord at level T9–T10. After a minimum of 4 weeks following SCI, intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) and single-unit recording techniques were used in both the forelimb and hindlimb motor areas (FLA, HLA) under ketamine anesthesia. Although movements could be evoked using ICMS in the forelimb area with relatively low current levels, no movements or electromyographical responses could be evoked from ICMS in the HLA in any of the injured rats. During the same procedure, electrophysiological recordings were obtained with a single-shank, 16-channel Michigan probe (Neuronexus) to monitor activity. Neural spikes were discriminated using principle component analysis. Neural activity (action potentials) was collected and digitized for a duration of 5 min. Despite the inability to evoke movement from stimulation of cortex, robust single-unit activity could be recorded reliably from hindlimb motor cortex in SCI rats. Activity in the motor cortex of SCI rats was significantly higher compared with uninjured rats, and increased in hindlimb and forelimb motor cortex by similar amounts. These results demonstrate that in a rat model of thoracic SCI, an increase in single-unit cortical activity can be reliably recorded for several weeks post-injury.
PMCID: PMC4638198  PMID: 26406381
cortical activity; hindlimb; rat motor cortex; spinal cord injury
2.  Gait Analysis at Multiple Speeds Reveals Differential Functional and Structural Outcomes in Response to Graded Spinal Cord Injury 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2014;31(9):846-856.
Open-field behavioral scoring is widely used to assess spinal cord injury (SCI) outcomes, but has limited usefulness in describing subtle changes important for posture and locomotion. Additional quantitative methods are needed to increase the resolution of locomotor outcome assessment. This study used gait analysis at multiple speeds (GAMS) across a range of mild-to-severe intensities of thoracic SCI in the rat. Overall, Basso, Beattie, and Bresnahan (BBB) scores and subscores were assessed, and detailed automated gait analysis was performed at three fixed walking speeds (3.5, 6.0, and 8.5 cm/sec). Variability in hindpaw brake, propel, and stance times were analyzed further by integrating across the stance phase of stepping cycles. Myelin staining of spinal cord sections was used to quantify white matter loss at the injury site. Varied SCI intensity produced graded deficits in BBB score, BBB subscores, and spinal cord white matter and total volume loss. GAMS measures of posture revealed decreased paw area, increased limb extension, altered stance width, and decreased values for integrated brake, propel, and stance. Measures of coordination revealed increased stride frequency concomitant with decreased stride length, resulting in deviation from consistent forelimb/hindlimb coordination. Alterations in posture and coordination were correlated to impact severity. GAMS results correlated highly with functional and histological measures and revealed differential relationships between sets of GAMS dynamics and cord total volume loss versus epicenter myelin loss. Automated gait analysis at multiple speeds is therefore a useful tool for quantifying nuanced changes in gait as an extension of histological and observational methods in assessing SCI outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3996941  PMID: 24405378
BBB score; DigiGait™; footprint; myelin; rat
3.  Inflammation enhances Y1 receptor signaling, neuropeptide Y-mediated inhibition of hyperalgesia, and substance P release from primary afferent neurons 
Neuroscience  2013;256:178-194.
Neuropeptide Y (NPY) is present in the superficial laminae of the dorsal horn and inhibits spinal nociceptive processing, but the mechanisms underlying its anti-hyperalgesic actions are unclear. We hypothesized that NPY acts at neuropeptide Y1 receptors in dorsal horn to decrease nociception by inhibiting substance P (SP) release, and that these effects are enhanced by inflammation. To evaluate SP release, we used microdialysis and neurokinin 1 receptor (NK1R) internalization in rat. NPY decreased capsaicin-evoked SP-like immunoreactivity in microdialysate of the dorsal horn. NPY also decreased non-noxious stimulus (paw brush)-evoked NK1R internalization (as well as mechanical hyperalgesia and mechanical and cold allodynia) after intraplantar injection of carrageenan. Similarly, in rat spinal cord slices with dorsal root attached, [Leu31, Pro34]-NPY inhibited dorsal root stimulus-evoked NK1R internalization. In rat dorsal root ganglion neurons, Y1 receptors colocalized extensively with calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). In dorsal horn neurons, Y1 receptors were extensively expressed and this may have masked detection of terminal co-localization with CGRP or SP. To determine whether the pain inhibitory actions of Y1 receptors are enhanced by inflammation, we administered [Leu31, Pro34]-NPY after intraplantar injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA) in rat. We found that [Leu31, Pro34]-NPY reduced paw clamp-induced NK1R internalization in CFA rats but not uninjured controls. To determine the contribution of increased Y1 receptor-G protein coupling, we measured [35S]GTPγS binding simulated by [Leu31, Pro34]-NPY in mouse dorsal horn. CFA inflammation increased the affinity of Y1 receptor G-protein coupling. We conclude that Y1 receptors contribute to the anti-hyperalgesic effects of NPY by mediating inhibition of SP release, and that Y1 receptor signaling in the dorsal horn is enhanced during inflammatory nociception.
PMCID: PMC4363128  PMID: 24184981
pain; G-protein; Neurokinin-1 receptor; calcitonin gene-related peptide; isolectin B4; capsaicin
4.  Sex Differences in Behavior and Expression of CGRP-related Genes in a Rodent Model of Chronic Migraine 
Headache  2011;51(5):674-692.
a. Objective
The objectives of this study were to develop a preclinical rodent model that produces migraine-like behaviors based on International Headache Society diagnostic criteria, to determine whether sex differences are present, and to determine whether expression of CGRP and the genes encoding its receptor in trigeminal ganglion or medulla correlates with those behaviors.
b. Background
Few animal studies of migraine have tested behaviors associated with migraine diagnostic criteria. In this study, changes in activity and in mechanical sensitivity of facial regions following application of inflammatory soup (IS) or vehicle (PBS) to the dura were measured to model changes in routine activity and allodynia. Calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP), an important mediator of migraine pathogenesis, and the three components of its receptor, calcitonin-like receptor (CLR), receptor activity-modifying protein (RAMP1), and receptor component protein (RCP) mRNAs were quantified in the trigeminal ganglion and medulla to identify baseline sex differences and changes associated with application of IS or PBS to the dura.
c. Methods
Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were implanted with a dural cannula. Groups of rats were treated with 10 or 20 microliter volumes of IS or PBS. Baseline behavioral testing was conducted prior to surgery and again at 7 days postsurgery, and dural application of IS or PBS was performed repeatedly for a total of 8 applications. Locomotor activity was assessed using force plate actimetry during and following application to provide information on distance traveled, bouts of low mobility, spatial confinement, and focused energy. Periorbital and perimasseter sensory testing was performed 20 min post-application to measure allodynia. The rats were sacrificed 30 minutes following the final dural treatment, tissue was dissected and total RNAs were isolated from ipsilateral trigeminal ganglia and ipsilateral medulla. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reactions were used to measure the expression of amplified constructs using gene-specific primers for CGRP, RAMP1, CLR, and RCP.
d. Results
Both males and females showed behavioral effects of IS application, but there were pronounced sex differences. Females showed effects at the lower dose, and activity changes were present for a longer duration, but males required fewer applications of IS to exhibit behavioral changes. Females showed increased withdrawal responses for periorbital and perimasseter mechanical testing (10 µl IS groups), and males showed increased perimasseter withdrawal responses (20 µl IS group). In the trigeminal ganglion, there were no baseline sex differences in CGRP-encoding mRNA, but females had lower baseline expression of RAMP1, CLR, and RCP-encoding mRNAs. In the medulla, females had higher baseline levels of CGRP-encoding mRNAs and lower baseline levels of RAMP1, CLR, and RCP-encoding mRNAs than males. Both IS and PBS increased expression of mRNAs encoding CGRP, RAMP1, RCP and CLR in the trigeminal ganglion in males, but in females, only CLR and RCP were increased. In the medulla both IS and PBS increased expression of CGRP, CLR in males and CLR and RCP in females. Thus, expression of CGRP related genes did not mirror the behavioral differences between IS and PBS groups. Instead, CGRP related genes were upregulated by both IS and PBS applications.
e. Conclusions
This study demonstrates significant changes in locomotor activity and facial allodynia associated with application of IS to the dura as well as significant sex differences, demonstrating that International Headache Society diagnostic criteria can be used to design a rodent behavioral model of migraine. In addition, there were prominent baseline sex differences in expression of CGRP and its receptor in both the trigeminal ganglion and medulla, but the majority of changes in expression of CGRP and its receptor were present in both the IS and PBS treated rats. This suggests that the CGRP pathway responds to changes in intracranial pressure or meningeal stretch, while migraine-like behaviors occur after meningeal inflammation.
PMCID: PMC4079043  PMID: 21521205
Chronic migraine; inflammatory soup; rat; facial allodynia; trigeminal; locomotor; activity; sex differences; pain; inflammation; dura mater; CGRP
5.  Vitamin D Deficiency Promotes Skeletal Muscle Hypersensitivity and Sensory Hyperinnervation 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2011;31(39):13728-13738.
Musculoskeletal pain affects nearly half of all adults, most of whom are vitamin D deficient. Previous findings demonstrated that putative nociceptors (“pain-sensing” nerves) express vitamin D receptors (VDRs), suggesting responsiveness to 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. In the present study, rats receiving vitamin D-deficient diets for 2– 4 weeks showed mechanical deep muscle hypersensitivity, but not cutaneous hypersensitivity. Muscle hypersensitivity was accompanied by balance deficits and occurred before onset of overt muscle or bone pathology. Hypersensitivity was not due to hypocalcemia and was actually accelerated by increased dietary calcium. Morphometry of skeletal muscle innervation showed increased numbers of presumptive nociceptor axons (peripherin-positive axons containing calcitonin gene-related peptide), without changes in sympathetic or skeletal muscle motor innervation. Similarly, there was no change in epidermal innervation. In culture, sensory neurons displayed enriched VDR expression in growth cones, and sprouting was regulated by VDR-mediated rapid response signaling pathways, while sympathetic outgrowth was not affected by different concentrations of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. These findings indicate that vitamin D deficiency can lead to selective alterations in target innervation, resulting in presumptive nociceptor hyperinnervation of skeletal muscle, which in turn is likely to contribute to muscular hypersensitivity and pain.
PMCID: PMC3319727  PMID: 21957236
6.  The GABAB receptor as a target for antidepressant drug action 
Preclinical and clinical data suggest that a modification in GABAB receptor expression and function may contribute to the symptoms of major depression and the response to antidepressants. This includes laboratory animal experiments demonstrating that antidepressants modify brain GABAB receptor expression and function and that GABAB receptor antagonists display antidepressant potential in animal models of this condition. Clinical and post-mortem studies reveal changes in GABAergic transmission associated with depression as well as depression-related changes in GABAB subunit expression that are localized to the cortical depression network. Detailed in this review are the preclinical and clinical data implicating a role for the GABAB receptor system in mediating symptoms of this disorder and its possible involvement in the response to antidepressants. Particular emphasis is placed on clinical and post-mortem studies, including previously unpublished work demonstrating regionally-selective modifications in GABAB receptor subunit expression in brain samples obtained from depressed subjects. Together with the earlier preclinical studies, these new data point to a role for the GABAB system in major depression and support the antidepressant potential of GABAB receptor antagonists.
PMCID: PMC3012402  PMID: 20735410
GABAB receptors; depression; antidepressants; human brain; GABAB receptor expression; hippocampus; dentate gyrus
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2008;33(9):1279-1292.
Decreased tissue levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3) are implicated in the etiologies of non-puerperal and postpartum depression. With the aim of determining neurobiological sequelae of decreased brain DHA content, this study examined the effects of a loss of brain DHA content and concurrent reproductive status in adult female Long-Evans rats. An α-linolenic acid-deficient diet and breeding protocols were used to produce virgin and parous female rats with cortical phospholipid DHA levels 23–26% lower than virgin and parous rats fed a control diet containing adequate α-linolenic acid. Parous dams were tested/euthanized at weaning (postnatal day 20) of the second litter; virgin females, during diestrus. Decreased brain DHA was associated with decreased hippocampal BDNF gene expression and increased relative corticosterone response to an intense stressor, regardless of reproductive status. In virgin females with decreased brain DHA, serotonin content and turnover in frontal cortex were decreased compared to virgin females with normal brain DHA. In parous dams with decreased brain DHA, the density of 5-HT1A receptors in the hippocampus was increased, corticosterone response to an intense stressor was increased, and the latency to immobility in the forced swim test was decreased compared to parous dams with normal DHA. These findings demonstrate neurobiological alterations attributable to decreased brain DHA or an interaction of parous status and brain DHA level. Furthermore, the data are consistent with findings in depressed humans, and thus support a role for DHA as a factor in the etiologies of depressive illnesses, particularly postpartum depression.
PMCID: PMC2582014  PMID: 18707812
omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; serotonin 1A receptor; forced swim; postpartum; corticosterone
8.  Dopamine receptor alterations in female rats with diet-induced decreased brain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): interactions with reproductive status 
Nutritional Neuroscience  2010;13(4):161-169.
Decreased tissue levels of n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are implicated in the etiologies of non-puerperal and postpartum depression. This study examined the effects of a diet-induced loss of brain DHA content and concurrent reproductive status on dopaminergic parameters in adult female Long–Evans rats. An α-linolenic acid-deficient diet and breeding protocols were used to produce virgin and parous female rats with cortical phospholipid DHA levels 20–22% lower than those fed a control diet containing adequate α-linolenic acid. Decreased brain DHA produced a significant main effect of decreased density of ventral striatal D2-like receptors. Virgin females with decreased DHA also exhibited higher density of D1-like receptors in the caudate nucleus than virgin females with normal DHA. These receptor alterations are similar to those found in several rodent models of depression, and are consistent with the proposed hypodopaminergic basis for anhedonia and motivational deficits in depression.
PMCID: PMC2955509  PMID: 20670471
omega-3; polyunsaturated fatty acid; dopamine receptor; postpartum; docosahexaenoic acid; rat

Results 1-8 (8)