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1.  Juvenile methylphenidate reduces prefrontal cortex plasticity via D3 receptor and BDNF in adulthood 
Background: Early drug intervention in childhood disorders aims to maximize individual potential in the short- and long-term. Consistently, juvenile exposure to psychostimulants, such as methylphenidate (MPH), reduces risk for substance use in animals and sub-populations of individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). We investigated the effects of MPH on brain plasticity via dopamine receptor D3 (D3R) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in developing rats.
Methods: Between postnatal days 20–35, rat pups were administered saline vehicle (Veh) or MPH (2 mg/kg), the D3R-preferring agonist ±7-OHDPAT, or the antagonist nafadotride (0.05 mg/kg) alone, or in combination with MPH twice a day. In adulthood, subjects were challenged to Veh or cocaine (10 mg/kg for two days). The prefrontal cortex was analyzed for protein and mRNA levels of total BDNF, its splice variants I, IIc, III/IV, and IV/VI, and D3 receptors. A separate group of subjects was assessed for splice variants at 20, 35, 40, and 60 days of age.
Results: Across age strong correlations were evident between Drd3 and Bdnf mRNA levels (r = 0.65) and a negative relationship between Drd3 and exon IIc after MPH treatment (r = −0.73). BDNF protein levels did not differ between Veh- and MPH subjects at baseline, but were significantly lower in MPH-treated and cocaine challenged subjects (30.3 ± 9.7%). Bdnf mRNA was significantly higher in MPH-treated subjects, and reversed upon exposure to cocaine. This effect was blocked by nafadotride. Furthermore, Bdnftotal and Bdnf splice variants I, IIc, III/IV, and IV/VI changed across the transitions between juvenility and late adolescence.
Conclusions: These data suggest a sensitive window of vulnerability to modulation of BDNF expression around adolescence, and that compared to normal animals, juvenile exposure to MPH permanently reduces prefrontal BDNF transcription and translation upon cocaine exposure in adulthood by a D3R-mediated mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3896878  PMID: 24478696
ADHD; adolescence; child; methylphenidate; ritalin; sensitive period
2.  Enhanced synaptic transmission at the squid giant synapse by artificial seawater based on physically modified saline 
Superfusion of the squid giant synapse with artificial seawater (ASW) based on isotonic saline containing oxygen nanobubbles (RNS60 ASW) generates an enhancement of synaptic transmission. This was determined by examining the postsynaptic response to single and repetitive presynaptic spike activation, spontaneous transmitter release, and presynaptic voltage clamp studies. In the presence of RNS60 ASW single presynaptic stimulation elicited larger postsynaptic potentials (PSP) and more robust recovery from high frequency stimulation than in control ASW. Analysis of postsynaptic noise revealed an increase in spontaneous transmitter release with modified noise kinetics in RNS60 ASW. Presynaptic voltage clamp demonstrated an increased EPSP, without an increase in presynaptic ICa++ amplitude during RNS60 ASW superfusion. Synaptic release enhancement reached stable maxima within 5–10 min of RNS60 ASW superfusion and was maintained for the entire recording time, up to 1 h. Electronmicroscopic morphometry indicated a decrease in synaptic vesicle density and the number at active zones with an increase in the number of clathrin-coated vesicles (CCV) and large endosome-like vesicles near junctional sites. Block of mitochondrial ATP synthesis by presynaptic injection of oligomycin reduced spontaneous release and prevented the synaptic noise increase seen in RNS60 ASW. After ATP block the number of vesicles at the active zone and CCV was reduced, with an increase in large vesicles. The possibility that RNS60 ASW acts by increasing mitochondrial ATP synthesis was tested by direct determination of ATP levels in both presynaptic and postsynaptic structures. This was implemented using luciferin/luciferase photon emission, which demonstrated a marked increase in ATP synthesis following RNS60 administration. It is concluded that RNS60 positively modulates synaptic transmission by up-regulating ATP synthesis, thus leading to synaptic transmission enhancement.
PMCID: PMC3921564  PMID: 24575037
neurotransmitter release; squid giant synapse; synaptic transmission optimization; physically modified water; calcium current
3.  A unifying theory of synaptic long-term plasticity based on a sparse distribution of synaptic strength 
Long-term synaptic plasticity is fundamental to learning and network function. It has been studied under various induction protocols and depends on firing rates, membrane voltage, and precise timing of action potentials. These protocols show different facets of a common underlying mechanism but they are mostly modeled as distinct phenomena. Here, we show that all of these different dependencies can be explained from a single computational principle. The objective is a sparse distribution of excitatory synaptic strength, which may help to reduce metabolic costs associated with synaptic transmission. Based on this objective we derive a stochastic gradient ascent learning rule which is of differential-Hebbian type. It is formulated in biophysical quantities and can be related to current mechanistic theories of synaptic plasticity. The learning rule accounts for experimental findings from all major induction protocols and explains a classic phenomenon of metaplasticity. Furthermore, our model predicts the existence of metaplasticity for spike-timing-dependent plasticity Thus, we provide a theory of long-term synaptic plasticity that unifies different induction protocols and provides a connection between functional and mechanistic levels of description.
PMCID: PMC3941589  PMID: 24624080
synaptic plasticity; sparseness; computational; STDP; metaplasticity
4.  The best-laid plans go oft awry: synaptogenic growth factor signaling in neuropsychiatric disease 
Growth factors play important roles in synapse formation. Mouse models of neuropsychiatric diseases suggest that defects in synaptogenic growth factors, their receptors, and signaling pathways can lead to disordered neural development and various behavioral phenotypes, including anxiety, memory problems, and social deficits. Genetic association studies in humans have found evidence for similar relationships between growth factor signaling pathways and neuropsychiatric phenotypes. Accumulating data suggest that dysfunction in neuronal circuitry, caused by defects in growth factor-mediated synapse formation, contributes to the susceptibility to multiple neuropsychiatric diseases, including epilepsy, autism, and disorders of thought and mood (e.g., schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, respectively). In this review, we will focus on how specific synaptogenic growth factors and their downstream signaling pathways might be involved in the development of neuropsychiatric diseases.
PMCID: PMC3957327  PMID: 24672476
synapse; synaptogenesis; growth factor; psychiatry; mental illness
5.  The BDNF effects on dendritic spines of mature hippocampal neurons depend on neuronal activity 
The fine tuning of neural networks during development and learning relies upon both functional and structural plastic processes. Changes in the number as well as in the size and shape of dendritic spines are associated to long-term activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. However, the molecular mechanisms translating functional into structural changes are still largely unknown. In this context, neurotrophins, like Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), are among promising candidates. Specifically BDNF-TrkB receptor signaling is crucial for activity-dependent strengthening of synapses in different brain regions. BDNF application has been shown to positively modulate dendritic and spine architecture in cortical and hippocampal neurons as well as structural plasticity in vitro. However, a global BDNF deprivation throughout the central nervous system (CNS) resulted in very mild structural alterations of dendritic spines, questioning the relevance of the endogenous BDNF signaling in modulating the development and the mature structure of neurons in vivo. Here we show that a loss-of-function approach, blocking BDNF results in a significant reduction in dendritic spine density, associated with an increase in spine length and a decrease in head width. These changes are associated with a decrease in F-actin levels within spine heads. On the other hand, a gain-of-function approach, applying exogenous BDNF, could not reproduce the increase in spine density or the changes in spine morphology previously described. Taken together, we show here that the effects exerted by BDNF on the dendritic architecture of hippocampal neurons are dependent on the neuron's maturation stage. Indeed, in mature hippocampal neurons in vitro as shown in vivo BDNF is specifically required for the activity-dependent maintenance of the mature spine phenotype.
PMCID: PMC3960490  PMID: 24688467
dendrites; spines; structural plasticity; hippocampus; neurotrophins
6.  Homeostatic structural plasticity increases the efficiency of small-world networks 
In networks with small-world topology, which are characterized by a high clustering coefficient and a short characteristic path length, information can be transmitted efficiently and at relatively low costs. The brain is composed of small-world networks, and evolution may have optimized brain connectivity for efficient information processing. Despite many studies on the impact of topology on information processing in neuronal networks, little is known about the development of network topology and the emergence of efficient small-world networks. We investigated how a simple growth process that favors short-range connections over long-range connections in combination with a synapse formation rule that generates homeostasis in post-synaptic firing rates shapes neuronal network topology. Interestingly, we found that small-world networks benefited from homeostasis by an increase in efficiency, defined as the averaged inverse of the shortest paths through the network. Efficiency particularly increased as small-world networks approached the desired level of electrical activity. Ultimately, homeostatic small-world networks became almost as efficient as random networks. The increase in efficiency was caused by the emergent property of the homeostatic growth process that neurons started forming more long-range connections, albeit at a low rate, when their electrical activity was close to the homeostatic set-point. Although global network topology continued to change when neuronal activities were around the homeostatic equilibrium, the small-world property of the network was maintained over the entire course of development. Our results may help understand how complex systems such as the brain could set up an efficient network topology in a self-organizing manner. Insights from our work may also lead to novel techniques for constructing large-scale neuronal networks by self-organization.
PMCID: PMC3978244  PMID: 24744727
topology; development; neuronal network model; structural synaptic plasticity; homeostasis; small-world network; efficiency
7.  Postsynaptic localization of PSD-95 is regulated by all three pathways downstream of TrkB signaling 
Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor TrkB regulate synaptic plasticity. TrkB triggers three downstream signaling pathways; Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K), Phospholipase Cγ (PLCγ) and Mitogen activated protein kinases/Extracellular signal-regulated kinases (MAPK/ERK). We previously showed two distinct mechanisms whereby BDNF-TrkB pathway controls trafficking of PSD-95, which is the major scaffold at excitatory synapses and is critical for synapse maturation. BDNF activates the PI3K-Akt pathway and regulates synaptic delivery of PSD-95 via vesicular transport (Yoshii and Constantine-Paton, 2007). BDNF-TrkB signaling also triggers PSD-95 palmitoylation and its transport to synapses through the phosphorylation of the palmitoylation enzyme ZDHHC8 by a protein kinase C (PKC; Yoshii etal., 2011). The second study used PKC inhibitors chelerythrine as well as a synthetic zeta inhibitory peptide (ZIP) which was originally designed to block the brain-specific PKC isoform protein kinase Mϖ (PKMϖ). However, recent studies raise concerns about specificity of ZIP. Here, we assessed the contribution of TrkB and its three downstream pathways to the synaptic distribution of endogenous PSD-95 in cultured neurons using chemical and genetic interventions. We confirmed that TrkB, PLC, and PI3K were critical for the postsynaptic distribution of PSD-95. Furthermore, suppression of MAPK/ERK also disrupted PSD-95 expression. Next, we examined the contribution of PKC. While both chelerythrine and ZIP suppressed the postsynaptic localization of PSD-95, RNA interference for PKMϖ did not have a significant effect. This result suggests that the ZIP peptide, widely used as the “specific” PKMϖ antagonist by many investigators may block a PKC variant other than PKMϖ such as PKCλ/ι. Our results indicate that TrkB regulates postsynaptic localization of PSD-95 through all three downstream pathways, but also recommend further work to identify other PKC variants that regulate palmitoylation and synaptic localization of PSD-95.
PMCID: PMC3978359  PMID: 24744726
synapse formation; BDNF; TrkB; PSD-95; PKMϖ; protein kinase C; MAP kinase; PI-3 kinase
8.  Synaptic and nonsynaptic plasticity approximating probabilistic inference 
Learning and memory operations in neural circuits are believed to involve molecular cascades of synaptic and nonsynaptic changes that lead to a diverse repertoire of dynamical phenomena at higher levels of processing. Hebbian and homeostatic plasticity, neuromodulation, and intrinsic excitability all conspire to form and maintain memories. But it is still unclear how these seemingly redundant mechanisms could jointly orchestrate learning in a more unified system. To this end, a Hebbian learning rule for spiking neurons inspired by Bayesian statistics is proposed. In this model, synaptic weights and intrinsic currents are adapted on-line upon arrival of single spikes, which initiate a cascade of temporally interacting memory traces that locally estimate probabilities associated with relative neuronal activation levels. Trace dynamics enable synaptic learning to readily demonstrate a spike-timing dependence, stably return to a set-point over long time scales, and remain competitive despite this stability. Beyond unsupervised learning, linking the traces with an external plasticity-modulating signal enables spike-based reinforcement learning. At the postsynaptic neuron, the traces are represented by an activity-dependent ion channel that is shown to regulate the input received by a postsynaptic cell and generate intrinsic graded persistent firing levels. We show how spike-based Hebbian-Bayesian learning can be performed in a simulated inference task using integrate-and-fire (IAF) neurons that are Poisson-firing and background-driven, similar to the preferred regime of cortical neurons. Our results support the view that neurons can represent information in the form of probability distributions, and that probabilistic inference could be a functional by-product of coupled synaptic and nonsynaptic mechanisms operating over several timescales. The model provides a biophysical realization of Bayesian computation by reconciling several observed neural phenomena whose functional effects are only partially understood in concert.
PMCID: PMC3986567  PMID: 24782758
Bayes' rule; synaptic plasticity and memory modeling; intrinsic excitability; naïve Bayes classifier; spiking neural networks; Hebbian learning
9.  The role of D-serine and glycine as co-agonists of NMDA receptors in motor neuron degeneration and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) 
The fundamental role of D-serine as a co-agonist at the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), mediating both physiological actions of glutamate in long term potentiation and nociception and also pathological effects mediated by excitotoxicty, are well-established. More recently, a direct link to a chronic neurodegenerative disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/motor neuron disease (ALS) has been suggested by findings that D-serine levels are elevated in sporadic ALS and the G93A SOD1 model of ALS (Sasabe et al., 2007, 2012) and that a pathogenic mutation (R199W) in the enzyme that degrades D-serine, D-amino acid oxidase (DAO), co-segregates with disease in familial ALS (Mitchell et al., 2010). Moreover, D-serine, its biosynthetic enzyme, serine racemase (SR) and DAO are abundant in human spinal cord and severely depleted in ALS. Using cell culture models, we have defined the effects of R199W-DAO, and shown that it activates autophagy, leads to the formation of ubiquitinated aggregates and promotes apoptosis, all of which processes are attenuated by a D-serine/glycine site NMDAR antagonist. These studies provide considerable insight into the crosstalk between neurons and glia and also into potential therapeutic approaches for ALS.
PMCID: PMC3997022  PMID: 24795623
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS); motor neuron disease; D-serine; D-amino acid oxidase (DAO); neurodegeneration; N-methyl-D-aspartic acid receptor (NMDAR); apoptosis; autophagy
10.  Serine racemase: a key player in apoptosis and necrosis 
A fine balance between cell survival and cell death is required to sculpt the nervous system during development. However, an excess of cell death can occur following trauma, exposure to neurotoxins or alcohol, and some developmental and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) support synaptic plasticity and survival of many neuronal populations whereas inappropriate activation may promote various forms of cell death, apoptosis, and necrosis representing the two extremes of a continuum of cell death processes both “in vitro” and “in vivo.” Hence, by identifying the switches controlling pro-survival vs. apoptosis and apoptosis vs. pro-excitotoxic outcome of NMDAR stimulation, NMDAR modulators could be developed that selectively block the cell death enhancing pro-survival signaling or synaptic plasticity mediated by NMDAR. Among these modulators, a role is emerging for the enzyme serine racemase (SR) that synthesizes D-serine, a key co-agonist with glutamate at NMDAR. This review summarizes the experimental evidence from “in vitro” neuronal cultures—with special emphasis on cerebellar granule neurons (CGNs)—and “in vivo” models of neurodegeneration, where the dual role of the SR/D-serine pathway as a master regulator of apoptosis and the apoptosis-necrosis shift will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4000995  PMID: 24795622
serine racemase; D-serine; neurodegeneration; apoptosis-necrosis shift; NMDAR; neurological disorders; review
11.  D-amino acid oxidase is expressed in the ventral tegmental area and modulates cortical dopamine 
D-amino acid oxidase (DAO, DAAO) degrades the NMDA receptor co-agonist D-serine, modulating D-serine levels and thence NMDA receptor function. DAO inhibitors are under development as a therapy for schizophrenia, a disorder involving both NMDA receptor and dopaminergic dysfunction. However, a direct role for DAO in dopamine regulation has not been demonstrated. Here, we address this question in two ways. First, using in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, we show that DAO mRNA and immunoreactivity are present in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the rat, in tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-positive and -negative neurons, and in glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-immunoreactive astrocytes. Second, we show that injection into the VTA of sodium benzoate, a DAO inhibitor, increases frontal cortex extracellular dopamine, as measured by in vivo microdialysis and high performance liquid chromatography. Combining sodium benzoate and D-serine did not enhance this effect, and injection of D-serine alone affected dopamine metabolites but not dopamine. These data show that DAO is expressed in the VTA, and suggest that it impacts on the mesocortical dopamine system. The mechanism by which the observed effects occur, and the implications of these findings for schizophrenia therapy, require further study.
PMCID: PMC4014674  PMID: 24822045
DAAO; DAO; D-serine; microdialysis; NMDA receptor; schizophrenia
12.  Cell-type specific mechanisms of D-serine uptake and release in the brain 
Accumulating evidence during the last decade established that D-serine is a key signaling molecule utilized by neurons and astroglia in the mammalian central nervous system. D-serine is increasingly appreciated as the main physiological endogenous coagonist for synaptic NMDA receptors at central excitatory synapses; it is mandatory for long-term changes in synaptic strength, memory, learning, and social interactions. Alterations in the extracellular levels of D-serine leading to disrupted cell-cell signaling are a trademark of many chronic or acute neurological (i.e., Alzheimer disease, epilepsy, stroke) and psychiatric (i.e., schizophrenia) disorders, and are associated with addictive behavior (i.e., cocaine addiction). Indeed, fine tuning of the extracellular levels of D-serine, achieved by various molecular machineries and signaling pathways, is necessary for maintenance of accurate NMDA receptor functions. Here, we review the experimental data supporting the notion that astroglia and neurons use different pathways to regulate levels of extracellular D-serine.
PMCID: PMC4039169  PMID: 24910611
NMDA receptors; coagonists; exocytosis; transporters; calcium; synapse
13.  Activity of D-amino acid oxidase is widespread in the human central nervous system 
It has been proposed that D-amino acid oxidase (DAO) plays an essential role in degrading D-serine, an endogenous coagonist of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) glutamate receptors. DAO shows genetic association with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and schizophrenia, in whose pathophysiology aberrant metabolism of D-serine is implicated. Although the pathology of both essentially involves the forebrain, in rodents, enzymatic activity of DAO is hindbrain-shifted and absent in the region. Here, we show activity-based distribution of DAO in the central nervous system (CNS) of humans compared with that of mice. DAO activity in humans was generally higher than that in mice. In the human forebrain, DAO activity was distributed in the subcortical white matter and the posterior limb of internal capsule, while it was almost undetectable in those areas in mice. In the lower brain centers, DAO activity was detected in the gray and white matters in a coordinated fashion in both humans and mice. In humans, DAO activity was prominent along the corticospinal tract, rubrospinal tract, nigrostriatal system, ponto-/olivo-cerebellar fibers, and in the anterolateral system. In contrast, in mice, the reticulospinal tract and ponto-/olivo-cerebellar fibers were the major pathways showing strong DAO activity. In the human corticospinal tract, activity-based staining of DAO did not merge with a motoneuronal marker, but colocalized mostly with excitatory amino acid transporter 2 and in part with GFAP, suggesting that DAO activity-positive cells are astrocytes seen mainly in the motor pathway. These findings establish the distribution of DAO activity in cerebral white matter and the motor system in humans, providing evidence to support the involvement of DAO in schizophrenia and ALS. Our results raise further questions about the regulation of D-serine in DAO-rich regions as well as the physiological/pathological roles of DAO in white matter astrocytes.
PMCID: PMC4050652  PMID: 24959138
D-serine; D-amino acid oxidase; enzyme histochemistry; human brain; white matter; motor systems; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; schizophrenia
14.  Re-encoding of associations by recurrent plasticity increases memory capacity 
Recurrent networks have been proposed as a model of associative memory. In such models, memory items are stored in the strength of connections between neurons. These modifiable connections or synapses constitute a shared resource among all stored memories, limiting the capacity of the network. Synaptic plasticity at different time scales can play an important role in optimizing the representation of associative memories, by keeping them sparse, uncorrelated and non-redundant. Here, we use a model of sequence memory to illustrate how plasticity allows a recurrent network to self-optimize by gradually re-encoding the representation of its memory items. A learning rule is used to sparsify large patterns, i.e., patterns with many active units. As a result, pattern sizes become more homogeneous, which increases the network's dynamical stability during sequence recall and allows more patterns to be stored. Last, we show that the learning rule allows for online learning in that it keeps the network in a robust dynamical steady state while storing new memories and overwriting old ones.
PMCID: PMC4051198  PMID: 24959137
associative memory; memory capacity; sparse coding; recurrent plasticity; memory consolidation
15.  LTD expression is independent of glutamate receptor subtype 
Long-term depression (LTD) is a form of synaptic plasticity that plays a major role in the activity-dependent reshaping of synaptic transmission. LTD is expressed as a decrease in synaptic AMPA receptor number, though the exact mechanism remains controversial. Several lines of evidence have suggested necessary roles for both the GluA1 and GluA2 subunits, and specifically certain interactions with their cytoplasmic tails. However, it is unclear if either GluA1 or GluA2 are absolutely required for LTD. We tested this hypothesis using constitutive knock-outs and single-cell molecular replacement of AMPA receptor subunits in mouse hippocampus. We found that neither GluA1 or GluA2 are required for normal expression of LTD, and indeed a normal decrease in synaptic transmission was observed in cells in which all endogenous AMPA receptors have been replaced by kainate receptors. Thus, LTD does not require removal of specific AMPA receptor subunits, but likely involves a more general modification of the synapse and its ability to anchor a broad range of receptor proteins.
PMCID: PMC4086023  PMID: 25071549
long-term depression; LTD; AMPA receptors; synaptic plasticity
16.  The role of D-serine as co-agonist of NMDA receptors in the nucleus accumbens: relevance to cocaine addiction 
Cocaine addiction is characterized by compulsive drug use despite adverse consequences and high rate of relapse during periods of abstinence. Increasing consensus suggests that addiction to drugs of abuse usurps learning and memory mechanisms normally related to natural rewards, ultimately producing long-lasting neuroadaptations in the mesocorticolimbic system. This system, formed in part by the ventral tegmental area and nucleus accumbens (NAc), has a central role in the development and expression of addictive behaviors. In addition to a broad spectrum of changes that affect morphology and function of NAc excitatory circuits in cocaine–treated animals, impaired N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR)-dependent synaptic plasticity is a typical feature. D-serine, a D-amino acid that has been found at high levels in mammalian brain, binds with high affinity the co-agonist site of NMDAR and mediates, along with glutamate, several important processes including synaptic plasticity. Here we review recent literature focusing on cocaine-induced impairment in synaptic plasticity mechanisms in the NAc and on the fundamental role of D-serine as co-agonist of NMDAR in functional and dysfunctional synaptic plasticity within this nucleus. The emerging picture is that reduced D-serine levels play a crucial role in synaptic plasticity relevant to cocaine addiction. This finding opens new perspectives for therapeutic approaches to treat this addictive state.
PMCID: PMC4100571  PMID: 25076900
addiction; cocaine; D-serine; NMDA receptors; nucleus accumbens; synaptic plasticity
17.  Oxotremorine treatment reduces repetitive behaviors in BTBR T+ tf/J mice 
Repetitive behaviors with restricted interests is one of the core criteria for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Current pharmacotherapies that target the dopaminergic or serotonergic systems have limited effectiveness in treating repetitive behaviors. Previous research has demonstrated that administration of muscarinic cholinergic receptor (mAChR) antagonists can exacerbate motor stereotypies while mAChR agonists reduce stereotypies. The present study determined whether the mAChR agonist, oxotremorine affected repetitive behaviors in the BTBR T+ tf/J (BTBR) mouse model of autism. To test the effects of oxotremorine on repetitive behaviors, marble burying and grooming behavior were measured in BTBR mice and compared to that in C57BL/6J (B6) mice. The effects of oxotremorine on locomotor activity was also measured. Thirty minutes before each test, mice received an intraperitoneal (ip) injection of saline, 0.001 mg or 0.01 mg of oxotremorine methiodide. Saline- treated BTBR mice exhibited increased marble burying and self-grooming behavior compared to that of saline-treated B6 mice. Oxotremorine significantly reduced marble burying and self-grooming behavior in BTBR mice, but had no significant effect in B6 mice. In addition, oxotremorine did not affect locomotor activity in BTBR mice, but significantly reduced locomotor activity in B6 mice at the 0.01 mg dose. These findings demonstrate that activation of mAChRs reduces repetitive behavior in the BTBR mouse and suggest that treatment with a mAChR agonist may be effective in reducing repetitive behaviors in ASD.
PMCID: PMC4131251  PMID: 25165445
acetylcholine; muscarinic receptors; autism; repetitive behaviors; marble burying; grooming
18.  Cocaine inhibition of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors influences dopamine release 
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) potently regulate dopamine (DA) release in the striatum and alter cocaine's ability to reinforce behaviors. Since cocaine is a weak nAChR inhibitor, we hypothesized that cocaine may alter DA release by inhibiting the nAChRs in DA terminals in the striatum and thus contribute to cocaine's reinforcing properties primarily associated with the inhibition of DA transporters. We found that biologically relevant concentrations of cocaine can mildly inhibit nAChR-mediated currents in midbrain DA neurons and consequently alter DA release in the dorsal and ventral striatum. At very high concentrations, cocaine also inhibits voltage-gated Na channels in DA neurons. Furthermore, our results show that partial inhibition of nAChRs by cocaine reduces evoked DA release. This diminution of DA release via nAChR inhibition more strongly influences release evoked at low or tonic stimulation frequencies than at higher (phasic) stimulation frequencies, particularly in the dorsolateral striatum. This cocaine-induced shift favoring phasic DA release may contribute to the enhanced saliency and motivational value of cocaine-associated memories and behaviors.
PMCID: PMC4154440  PMID: 25237305
substantia nigra; ventral tegmental area; addiction; mesolimbic; voltammetry; nAChRs
19.  Muscarinic cholinergic receptors modulate inhibitory synaptic rhythms in hippocampus and neocortex 
Activation of muscarinic acetylcholine (ACh) receptors (mAChRs) powerfully affects many neuronal properties as well as numerous cognitive behaviors. Small neuronal circuits constitute an intermediate level of organization between neurons and behaviors, and mAChRs affect interactions among cells that compose these circuits. Circuit activity is often assessed by extracellular recordings of the local field potentials (LFPs), which are analogous to in vivo EEGs, generated by coordinated neuronal interactions. Coherent forms of physiologically relevant circuit activity manifest themselves as rhythmic oscillations in the LFPs. Frequencies of rhythmic oscillations that are most closely associated with animal behavior are in the range of 4–80 Hz, which is subdivided into theta (4–14 Hz), beta (15–29 Hz) and gamma (30–80 Hz) bands. Activation of mAChRs triggers rhythmic oscillations in these bands in the hippocampus and neocortex. Inhibitory responses mediated by GABAergic interneurons constitute a prominent feature of these oscillations, and indeed, appear to be their major underlying factor in many cases. An important issue is which interneurons are involved in rhythm generation. Besides affecting cellular and network properties directly, mAChRs can cause the mobilization of endogenous cannabinoids (endocannabinoids, eCBs) that, by acting on the principal cannabinoid receptor of the brain, CB1R, regulate the release of certain neurotransmitters, including GABA. CB1Rs are heavily expressed on only a subset of interneurons and, at lower density, on glutamatergic neurons. Exogenous cannabinoids typically disrupt oscillations in the theta (θ) and gamma (γ) ranges, which probably contributes to the behavioral effects of these drugs. It is important to understand how neuronal circuit activity is affected by mAChR-driven eCBs, as this information will provide deeper insight into the actions of ACh itself, as well as into the effects of eCBs and exogenous cannabinoids in animal behavior. After covering some basic aspects of the mAChR system, this review will focus on recent findings concerning the mechanisms and circuitry that generate θ and γ rhythms in hippocampus and neocortex. The ability of optogenetic methods to probe the many roles of ACh in rhythm generation is highlighted.
PMCID: PMC4155787  PMID: 25249974
optogenetics; GABA; interneuron; endocannabinoid; opioid; theta; cholecystokinin; parvalbumin
20.  Acetylcholine release and inhibitory interneuron activity in hippocampal CA1 
Acetylcholine release in the central nervous system (CNS) has an important role in attention, recall, and memory formation. One region influenced by acetylcholine is the hippocampus, which receives inputs from the medial septum and diagonal band of Broca complex (MS/DBB). Release of acetylcholine from the MS/DBB can directly affect several elements of the hippocampus including glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons, presynaptic terminals, postsynaptic receptors, and astrocytes. A significant portion of acetylcholine's effect likely results from the modulation of GABAergic inhibitory interneurons, which have crucial roles in controlling excitatory inputs, synaptic integration, rhythmic coordination of principal neurons, and outputs in the hippocampus. Acetylcholine affects interneuron function in large part by altering their membrane potential via muscarinic and nicotinic receptor activation. This minireview describes recent data from mouse hippocampus that investigated changes in CA1 interneuron membrane potentials following acetylcholine release. The interneuron subtypes affected, the receptor subtypes activated, and the potential outcome on hippocampal CA1 network function is discussed.
PMCID: PMC4165287  PMID: 25278874
hippocampus; acetylcholine; muscarinic; nicotinic; inhibitory interneuron
21.  Paying attention to smell: cholinergic signaling in the olfactory bulb 
The tractable, layered architecture of the olfactory bulb (OB), and its function as a relay between odor input and higher cortical processing, makes it an attractive model to study how sensory information is processed at a synaptic and circuit level. The OB is also the recipient of strong neuromodulatory inputs, chief among them being the central cholinergic system. Cholinergic axons from the basal forebrain modulate the activity of various cells and synapses within the OB, particularly the numerous dendrodendritic synapses, resulting in highly variable responses of OB neurons to odor input that is dependent upon the behavioral state of the animal. Behavioral, electrophysiological, anatomical, and computational studies examining the function of muscarinic and nicotinic cholinergic receptors expressed in the OB have provided valuable insights into the role of acetylcholine (ACh) in regulating its function. We here review various studies examining the modulation of OB function by cholinergic fibers and their target receptors, and provide putative models describing the role that cholinergic receptor activation might play in the encoding of odor information.
PMCID: PMC4174753  PMID: 25309421
muscarinic; nicotinic; glomerular; GABAergic; filter
22.  Dendritic inhibition mediated by O-LM and bistratified interneurons in the hippocampus 
In the CA1 region of the hippocampus pyramidal neurons and GABAergic interneurons form local microcircuits. CA1 interneurons are a diverse group consisting of many subtypes, some of which provide compartment-specific inhibition specifically onto pyramidal neuron dendrites. In fact, the majority of inhibitory synapses on pyramidal neurons is found on their dendrites. The specific role of a dendrite-innervating interneuron subtype is primarily determined by its innervation pattern on the distinct dendritic domains of pyramidal neurons. The efficacy of dendritic inhibition in reducing dendritic excitation depends on the relative timing and location of the activated excitatory and inhibitory synapses. In vivo, synaptic properties such as short-term plasticity and neuro-modulation by the basal forebrain, govern the degree of inhibition in distinct dendritic domains in a dynamic, behavior dependent manner, specifically during network oscillation such as the theta rhythm. In this review we focus on two subtypes of dendrite-innervating interneurons: the oriens-lacunosum moleculare (O-LM) interneuron and the bistratified interneuron. Their molecular marker profile, morphology, and function in vivo and in vitro are well studied. We strive to integrate this diverse information from the cellular to the network level, and to provide insight into how the different characteristics of O-LM and bistratified interneurons affect dendritic excitability, network activity, and behavior.
PMCID: PMC4179767  PMID: 25324774
oriens-lacunosum moleculare interneuron; bistratified interneuron; dendritic inhibition; theta oscillation; modulation
23.  Striatal cholinergic interneuron regulation and circuit effects 
The striatum plays a central role in motor control and motor learning. Appropriate responses to environmental stimuli, including pursuit of reward or avoidance of aversive experience all require functional striatal circuits. These pathways integrate synaptic inputs from limbic and cortical regions including sensory, motor and motivational information to ultimately connect intention to action. Although many neurotransmitters participate in striatal circuitry, one critically important player is acetylcholine (ACh). Relative to other brain areas, the striatum contains exceptionally high levels of ACh, the enzymes that catalyze its synthesis and breakdown, as well as both nicotinic and muscarinic receptor types that mediate its postsynaptic effects. The principal source of striatal ACh is the cholinergic interneuron (ChI), which comprises only about 1–2% of all striatal cells yet sends dense arbors of projections throughout the striatum. This review summarizes recent advances in our understanding of the factors affecting the excitability of these neurons through acute effects and long term changes in their synaptic inputs. In addition, we discuss the physiological effects of ACh in the striatum, and how changes in ACh levels may contribute to disease states during striatal dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC4204445  PMID: 25374536
acetylcholine; cholinergic interneuron; Parkinson's disease; plasticity; striatum
24.  Illuminating the role of cholinergic signaling in circuits of attention and emotionally salient behaviors 
Acetylcholine (ACh) signaling underlies specific aspects of cognitive functions and behaviors, including attention, learning, memory and motivation. Alterations in ACh signaling are involved in the pathophysiology of multiple neuropsychiatric disorders. In the central nervous system, ACh transmission is mainly guaranteed by dense innervation of select cortical and subcortical regions from disperse groups of cholinergic neurons within the basal forebrain (BF; e.g., diagonal band, medial septal, nucleus basalis) and the pontine-mesencephalic nuclei, respectively. Despite the fundamental role of cholinergic signaling in the CNS and the long standing knowledge of the organization of cholinergic circuitry, remarkably little is known about precisely how ACh release modulates cortical and subcortical neural activity and the behaviors these circuits subserve. Growing interest in cholinergic signaling in the CNS focuses on the mechanism(s) of action by which endogenously released ACh regulates cognitive functions, acting as a neuromodulator and/or as a direct transmitter via nicotinic and muscarinic receptors. The development of optogenetic techniques has provided a valuable toolbox with which we can address these questions, as it allows the selective manipulation of the excitability of cholinergic inputs to the diverse array of cholinergic target fields within cortical and subcortical domains. Here, we review recent papers that use the light-sensitive opsins in the cholinergic system to elucidate the role of ACh in circuits related to attention and emotionally salient behaviors. In particular, we highlight recent optogenetic studies which have tried to disentangle the precise role of ACh in the modulation of cortical-, hippocampal- and striatal-dependent functions.
PMCID: PMC4209819  PMID: 25386136
acetylcholine; optogenetics; nicotinic receptors; limbic circuitries; attention
25.  The interplay of plasticity and adaptation in neural circuits: a generative model 
Multiple neural and synaptic phenomena take place in the brain. They operate over a broad range of timescales, and the consequences of their interplay are still unclear. In this work, I study a computational model of a recurrent neural network in which two dynamic processes take place: sensory adaptation and synaptic plasticity. Both phenomena are ubiquitous in the brain, but their dynamic interplay has not been investigated. I show that when both processes are included, the neural circuit is able to perform a specific computation: it becomes a generative model for certain distributions of input stimuli. The neural circuit is able to generate spontaneous patterns of activity that reproduce exactly the probability distribution of experienced stimuli. In particular, the landscape of the phase space includes a large number of stable states (attractors) that sample precisely this prior distribution. This work demonstrates that the interplay between distinct dynamical processes gives rise to useful computation, and proposes a framework in which neural circuit models for Bayesian inference may be developed in the future.
PMCID: PMC4214225  PMID: 25400577
synaptic plasticity; sensory adaptation; dynamical systems; attractor model; generative model; Bayesian inference

Results 1-25 (108)