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1.  Oxidative lipid modification of nicastrin enhances amyloidogenic γ-secretase activity in Alzheimer’s disease 
Aging cell  2012;11(4):559-568.
The cause of elevated level of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ42) in common late-onset sporadic (AD) has not been established. Here we show that the membrane lipid peroxidation product 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE) is associated with amyloid and neurodegenerative pathologies in AD, and that it enhances γ-secretase activity and Aβ42 production in neurons. The γ-secretase substrate receptor, nicastrin was found to be modified by HNE in cultured neurons and in brain specimens from AD patients, in which HNE-nicastrin levels were found to be correlated with increased γ-secretase activity and Aβ plaque burden. Furthermore, HNE modification of nicastrin enhanced its binding to the γ-secretase substrate, amyloid precursor protein (APP) C99. In addition, the stimulation of γ-secretase activity and Aβ42 production by HNE were blocked by an HNE-scavenging histidine analog in a 3xTgAD mouse model of AD. These findings suggest a specific molecular mechanism by which oxidative stress increases Aβ42 production in AD, and identify HNE as a novel therapeutic target upstream of the γ-secretase cleavage of APP.
PMCID: PMC4217088  PMID: 22404891
Alzheimer’s disease; oxidative stress; amyloid; lipid peroxidation; γ-secretase; nicastrin
2.  Activation of TRPML1 Clears Intraneuronal Aβ in Preclinical Models of HIV Infection 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(34):11485-11503.
Antiretroviral therapy extends the lifespan of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected patients, but many survivors develop premature impairments in cognition. These residual cognitive impairments may involve aberrant deposition of amyloid β-peptides (Aβ). By unknown mechanisms, Aβ accumulates in the lysosomal and autophagic compartments of neurons in the HIV-infected brain. Here we identify the molecular events evoked by the HIV coat protein gp120 that facilitate the intraneuronal accumulation of Aβ. We created a triple transgenic gp120/APP/PS1 mouse that recapitulates intraneuronal deposition of Aβ in a manner reminiscent of the HIV-infected brain. In cultured neurons, we found that the HIV coat protein gp120 increased the transcriptional expression of BACE1 through repression of PPARγ, and increased APP expression by promoting interaction of the translation-activating RBP heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein C with APP mRNA. APP and BACE1 were colocalized into stabilized membrane microdomains, where the β-cleavage of APP and Aβ formation were enhanced. Aβ-peptides became localized to lysosomes that were engorged with sphingomyelin and calcium. Stimulating calcium efflux from lysosomes with a TRPM1 agonist promoted calcium efflux, luminal acidification, and cleared both sphingomyelin and Aβ from lysosomes. These findings suggest that therapeutics targeted to reduce lysosomal pH in neurodegenerative conditions may protect neurons by facilitating the clearance of accumulated sphingolipids and Aβ-peptides.
PMCID: PMC4138351  PMID: 25143627
amyloid; dementia; endosome; HIV; lysosome; neuron
3.  Challenging Oneself Intermittently to Improve Health 
Dose-Response  2014;12(4):600-618.
Humans and their predecessors evolved in environments where they were challenged intermittently with: 1) food scarcity; 2) the need for aerobic fitness to catch/kill prey and avoid or repel attackers; and 3) exposure to biological toxins present in foodstuffs. Accordingly, cells and organ systems acquired and retained molecular signaling and metabolic pathways through which the environmental challenges enhanced the functionality and resilience of the cells and organisms. Within the past 60 years there has been a precipitous diminution of such challenges in modern societies because of the development of technologies that provide a continuous supply of energy-dense processed foods and that largely eliminate the need for physical exertion. As a consequence of the modern ‘couch potato’ lifestyle, signaling pathways that mediate beneficial effects of environmental challenges on health and disease resistance are disengaged, thereby rendering people vulnerable to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancers and neurodegenerative disorders. Reversal of the epidemic of diseases caused by unchallenging lifestyles will require a society-wide effort to re-introduce intermittent fasting, exercise and consumption of plants containing hormetic phytochemicals into daily and weekly routines.
PMCID: PMC4267452  PMID: 25552960
brain function; exercise; hormesis; intermittent fasting
4.  Molecular Control of the Amount, Subcellular Location and Activity State of Translation Elongation Factor 2 (eEF-2) in Neurons Experiencing Stress 
Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF-2) is an important regulator of the protein translation machinery wherein it controls the movement of the ribosome along the mRNA. The activity of eEF-2 is regulated by changes in cellular energy status and nutrient availability, and posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation and mono-ADP-ribosylation. However, the mechanisms regulating protein translation under conditions of cellular stress in neurons are unknown. Here we show that when rat hippocampal neurons experience oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation induced by exposure to cumene hydroperoxide; CH), eEF-2 is hyperphosphorylated and ribosylated resulting in reduced translational activity. The degradation of eEF-2 requires calpain proteolytic activity and is accompanied by accumulation of eEF-2 in the nuclear compartment. The subcellular localization of both native and phosphorylated forms of eEF-2 is influenced by CRM1 and 14.3.3, respectively. In hippocampal neurons p53 interacts with non-phosphorylated (active) eEF-2, but not with its phosphorylated form. The p53 – eEF-2 complexes are present in cytoplasm and nucleus, and their abundance increases when neurons experience oxidative stress. The nuclear localization of active eEF-2 depends upon its interaction with p53, as cells lacking p53 contain less active eEF-2 in the nuclear compartment. Overexpression of eEF-2 in hippocampal neurons results in increased nuclear levels of eEF-2, and decreased cell death following exposure to CH. Our results reveal novel molecular mechanisms controlling the differential subcellular localization and activity state of eEF-2 that may influence the survival status of neurons during periods of elevated oxidative stress.
PMCID: PMC3772990  PMID: 23542375
Eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF-2); CRM1; 14.3.3; p53; lipid peroxidation; hippocampal neurons
5.  Chronic mild sleep restriction accentuates contextual memory impairments, and accumulations of cortical Aβ and pTau in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s Disease 
Brain research  2013;1529:200-208.
Age-associated dysregulation of sleep can be worsened by Alzheimer’s disease (AD). AD and sleep restriction both impair cognition, yet it is unknown if mild chronic sleep restriction modifies the proteopathic processes involved in AD. The goal of this work was to test the hypothesis that sleep restriction worsens memory impairments, and amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) and pTau accumulations in the brain in a mouse model of AD, with a focus on a role for circulating glucocorticoids (GC). Male 3xTgAD mice were subjected to sleep restriction (SR) for 6 hrs/day for 6 weeks using the modified multiple platform technique, and behavioral (Morris water maze, fear conditioning, open field) and biochemical (immunoblot) outcomes were compared to mice undergoing daily cage transfers (large cage control; LCC) as well as control mice that remained in their home cage (control; CTL). At one week, both LCC and SR mice displayed significant elevations in plasma corticosterone compared to CTL (p<0.002). By four weeks, SR mice displayed a two-fold increase in circulating corticosterone levels compared to CTL. Behavioral data indicated deficits in contextual and cued memory in SR mice that were not present for LCC or CTL (p<0.04). Both Aβ and pTau levels increased in the cortex of SR mice compared to CTL and LCC; however these changes were not noted in the hippocampus. Significant positive correlations between cortical Aβ and pTau levels and circulating corticosterone indicate a potential role for GCs in mediating behavioral and biochemical changes observed after sleep restriction in a mouse model of AD.
PMCID: PMC3779872  PMID: 23856323
Alzheimer’s disease; sleep restriction; glucocorticoids; amyloid; Morris water maze; fear conditioning
6.  TLR4-dependent metabolic changes are associated with cognitive impairment in an animal model of type 1 diabetes 
We investigated the role of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a major mediator of innate immune responses, on cognitive performance in a type 1 diabetes model (T1D). After administration of streptozotocin, both TLR4 knockout (TLR4 KO) and wild type (WT) diabetic mice displayed metabolic alterations similar to those observed in T1D patients, including increased levels of glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides and ketones. T1D mice exhibited cognitive impairment which was less severe in TLR4 KO mice compared to WT mice. WT mice with higher glucose and those with higher triglyceride levels exhibited significantly more anxiety and impaired memory compared to those with lower levels of glucose and triglycerides; these correlations were absent in TLR4 KO mice. Additional findings suggest roles for TLR4 signaling in modifying the expression of enzymes involved in energy metabolism in brain cells in the setting of T1D. Our data show that TLR4 contributes to the negative impact of T1D on anxiety and cognition.
PMCID: PMC3916215  PMID: 24342620
TLR4; diabetes; ketones; memory; anxiety
7.  L-type Ca2+ currents at CA1 synapses, but not CA3 or dentate granule neuron synapses, are increased in 3xTgAD mice in an age-dependent manner 
Neurobiology of aging  2013;35(1):10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.07.007.
Abnormal neuronal excitability and impaired synaptic plasticity might occur before the degeneration and death of neurons in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To elucidate potential biophysical alterations underlying aberrant neuronal network activity in AD, we performed whole-cell patch clamp analyses of L-type (nifedipine-sensitive) Ca2+ currents (L-VGCC), 4–aminopyridine-sensitive K+ currents, and AMPA (2-amino-3-(3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazol-4-yl)propanoic acid) and NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) currents in CA1, CA3, and dentate granule neurons in hippocampal slices from young, middle-age, and old 3xTgAD mice and age-matched wild type mice. 3xTgAD mice develop progressive widespread accumulation of amyloid b-peptide, and selective hyperphosphorylated tau pathology in hippocampal CA1 neurons, which are associated with cognitive deficits, but independent of overt neuronal degeneration. An age-related elevation of L-type Ca2+ channel current density occurred in CA1 neurons in 3xTgAD mice, but not in wild type mice, with the magnitude being significantly greater in older 3xTgAD mice. The NMDA current was also significantly elevated in CA1 neurons of old 3xTgAD mice compared with in old wild type mice. There were no differences in the amplitude of K+ or AMPA currents in CA1 neurons of 3xTgAD mice compared with wild type mice at any age. There were no significant differences in Ca2+, K+, AMPA, or NMDA currents in CA3 and dentate neurons from 3xTgAD mice compared with wild type mice at any age. Our results reveal an age-related increase of L-VGCC density in CA1 neurons, but not in CA3 or dentate granule neurons, of 3xTgAD mice. These findings suggest a potential contribution of altered L-VGCC to the selective vulnerability of CA1 neurons to tau pathology in the 3xTgAD mice and to their degeneration in AD patients.
PMCID: PMC3864587  PMID: 23932880
3xTgAD mice; Aging; L-type Ca2+ currents; CA1
8.  The Neuropathology of Obesity: Insights from Human Disease 
Acta neuropathologica  2013;127(1):10.1007/s00401-013-1190-x.
Obesity, a pathologic state defined by excess adipose tissue, is a significant public health problem as it affects a large proportion of individuals and is linked with increased risk for numerous chronic diseases. Obesity is the result of fundamental changes associated with modern society including overnutrition and sedentary lifestyles. Proper energy homeostasis is dependent on normal brain function as the master metabolic regulator which integrates peripheral signals, modulates autonomic outflow and controls feeding behavior. Therefore, many human brain diseases are associated with obesity. This review explores the neuropathology of obesity by examining brain diseases which either cause or are influenced by obesity. First, several genetic and acquired brain diseases are discussed as a means to understand the central regulation of peripheral metabolism. These diseases range from monogenetic causes of obesity (leptin deficiency, MC4R deficiency, Bardet-Biedl syndrome and others) to complex neurodevelopmental disorders (Prader-Willi syndrome and Sim1 deficiency) and neurodegenerative conditions (frontotemporal dementia and Gourmand’s syndrome) and serve to highlight the central regulatory mechanisms which have evolved to maintain energy homeostasis. Next, to examine the effect of obesity on the brain, chronic neuropathologic conditions (epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease) are discussed as examples of obesity leading to maladaptive processes which exacerbate chronic disease. Thus obesity is associated with multiple pathways including abnormal metabolism, altered hormonal signaling and increased inflammation which act in concert to promote downstream neuropathology. Finally, the effect of anti-obesity interventions is discussed in terms of brain structure and function. Together, understanding human diseases and anti-obesity interventions leads to insights into the bidirectional interaction between peripheral metabolism and central brain function, highlighting the need for continued clinicopathologic and mechanistic studies of the neuropathology of obesity.
PMCID: PMC3880612  PMID: 24096619
9.  Involvement of PGC-1α in the Formation and Maintenance of Neuronal Dendritic Spines 
Nature communications  2012;3:1250.
The formation, maintenance, and reorganization of synapses are critical for brain development and the responses of neuronal circuits to environmental challenges. Here we describe a novel role for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma co-activator (PGC-1α), a master regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, in the formation and maintenance of dendritic spines in hippocampal neurons. In cultured hippocampal neurons, PGC-1α overexpression increases dendritic spines and enhances the molecular differentiation of synapses, whereas knockdown of PGC-1α inhibits spinogenesis and synaptogenesis.. PGC-1α knockdown also reduces the density of dendritic spines in hippocampal dentate granule neurons in vivo. We further show that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) stimulates PGC-1α-dependent mitochondrial biogenesis by activating ERKs and CREB. PGC-1α knockdown inhibits BDNF to promote dendritic spine formation without affecting expression and activation of the BDNF receptor TrkB. Our findings suggest that PGC-1α and mitochondrial biogenesis play important roles in the formation and maintenance of hippocampal dendritic spines and synapses.
PMCID: PMC4091730  PMID: 23212379
mitochondria; biogenesis; BDNF; PGC-1α; dendritic spines; hippocampus; synaptogenesis; CREB; TFAM
10.  Recruiting Adaptive Cellular Stress Responses for Successful Brain Aging 
Nature reviews. Neuroscience  2012;13(3):209-216.
Successful aging is determined in part by genetic background, but also by experiential factors associated with lifestyle and culture. Dietary, behavioral and pharmacological interventions have been identified as potential means to slow brain aging and forestall neurodegenerative disease. Many of these interventions recruit adaptive cellular stress responses to strengthen neuronal networks and enhance plasticity. In this Perspective, we describe several determinants of healthy and pathological brain aging, with insights into how these processes are accelerated or prevented. We also describe the mechanisms underlying the neuroprotective actions of exercise and nutritional interventions, with the goal of recruiting these molecular targets for the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative disease.
PMCID: PMC4084510  PMID: 22251954
11.  Deletion in the N-terminal Half of Olfactomedin 1 Modifies Its Interaction with Synaptic Proteins and Causes Brain Dystrophy and Abnormal Behavior in Mice 
Experimental neurology  2013;250:10.1016/j.expneurol.2013.09.019.
Olfactomedin 1 (Olfm1) is a secreted glycoprotein that is preferentially expressed in neuronal tissues. Here we show that deletion of exons 4 and 5 from the Olfm1 gene, which encodes a 52 amino acid long region in the N-terminal part of the protein, increased neonatal death and reduced body weight of surviving homozygous mice. Magnetic resonance imaging analyses revealed reduced brain volume and attenuated size of white matter tracts such as the anterior commissure, corpus callosum, and optic nerve. Adult Olfm1 mutant mice demonstrated abnormal behavior in several tests including reduced marble digging, elevated plus maze test, nesting activity and latency on balance beam tests as compared with their wild-type littermates. The olfactory system was both structurally and functionally disturbed by the mutation in the Olfm1 gene as shown by functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis and a smell test. Deficiencies of the olfactory system may contribute to the neonatal death and loss of body weight of Olfm1 mutant. Shotgun proteomics revealed 59 candidate proteins that co-precipitated with wild-type or mutant Olfm1 proteins in postnatal day 1 brain. Olfm1-binding targets included GluR2, Cav2.1, Teneurin-4 and Kidins220. Modified interaction of Olfm1 with binding targets led to an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration and activation of ERK1/2, MEK1 and CaMKII in the hippocampus and olfactory bulb of Olfm1 mutant mice compared with their wild-type littermates. Excessive activation of the CaMKII and Ras-ERK pathways in the Olfm1 mutant olfactory bulb and hippocampus by elevated intracellular calcium may contribute to the abnormal behavior and olfactory activity of Olfm1 mutant mice.
PMCID: PMC3875227  PMID: 24095980
olfactomedin 1; AMPA receptor; neurobiology; proteomics; cell signaling; mouse; anxiety behavior; olfactory defects
12.  3xTgAD mice exhibit altered behavior and elevated Aβ after chronic mild social stress 
Neurobiology of aging  2011;33(4):830.e1-830.12.
Chronic stress may be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but most studies of the effects of stress in models of AD utilize acute adverse stressors of questionable clinical relevance. The goal of this work was to determine how chronic psychosocial stress affects behavioral and pathological outcomes in an animal model of AD, and to elucidate underlying mechanisms. A triple-transgenic mouse model of AD (3xTgAD mice) and nontransgenic control mice were used to test for an affect of chronic mild social stress on blood glucose, plasma glucocorticoids, plasma insulin, anxiety and hippocampal Aβ, ptau and BDNF levels. Despite the fact that both control and 3xTgAD mice experienced rises in corticosterone during episodes of mild social stress, at the end of the 6 week stress period 3xTgAD mice displayed increased anxiety, elevated levels of Aβ oligomers and intraneuronal Aβ, and decreased BDNF levels, whereas control mice did not. Findings suggest 3xTgAD mice are more vulnerable than control mice to chronic psychosocial stress, and that such chronic stress exacerbates Aβ accumulation and impairs neurotrophic signaling.
PMCID: PMC4074356  PMID: 21855175
Alzheimer’s disease; amyloid oligomers; psychosocial stress; corticosterone; hippocampus; BDNF
13.  Nicotinamide Forestalls Pathology and Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer Mice: Evidence for Improved Neuronal Bioenergetics and Autophagy Procession 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;34(6):1564-1580.
Impaired brain energy metabolism and oxidative stress are implicated in cognitive decline and the pathological accumulations of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) and hyperphosphorylated Tau (p-Tau) in Alzheimer's disease (AD). To determine whether improving brain energy metabolism will forestall disease progress in AD, the impact of the NAD+ precursor nicotinamide on brain cell mitochondrial function and macroautophagy, bioenergetics-related signaling and cognitive performance were studied in cultured neurons and in a mouse model of AD. Oxidative stress resulted in decreased mitochondrial mass, mitochondrial degeneration and autophagosome accumulation in neurons. Nicotinamide preserved mitochondrial integrity and autophagy function, and reduced neuronal vulnerability to oxidative/metabolic insults and Aβ toxicity. NAD+ biosynthesis, autophagy and PI3K signaling were required for the neuroprotective action of nicotinamide. Treatment of 3xTgAD mice with nicotinamide for 8 months resulted in improved cognitive performance, and reduced Aβ and p-Tau pathologies in hippocampus and cerebral cortex. Nicotinamide treatment preserved mitochondrial integrity, and improved autophagy-lysosome procession by enhancing lysosome/autolysosome acidification to reduce autophagosome accumulation. Treatment of 3xTgAD mice with nicotinamide resulted in elevated levels of activated neuroplasticity-related kinases (Akt and ERKs) and the transcription factor cyclic AMP response element-binding protein in the hippocampus and cerebral cortex. Thus, nicotinamide suppresses AD pathology and cognitive decline in a mouse model of AD by a mechanism involving improved brain bioenergetics with preserved functionality of mitochondria and the autophagy system.
PMCID: PMC3596471  PMID: 23273573
NAD+; nicotinamide; mitochondria; DLP1; autophagy; lysosome; 3xTgAD; p-Akt; CREB; learning and memory
14.  Testing the product of slopes in related regressions 
A study was conducted of the relationships among neuroprotective factors and cytokines in brain tissue of mice at different ages that were examined on the effect of dietary restriction on protection after experimentally induced brain stroke. It was of interest to assess whether the cross-product of the slopes of pairs of variables vs. age was positive or negative. To accomplish this, the product of the slopes was estimated and tested to determine if it is significantly different from zero. Since the measurements are taken on the same animals, the models used must account for the non-independence of the measurements within animals. A number of approaches are illustrated. First a multivariate multiple regression model is employed. Since we are interested in a nonlinear function of the parameters (the product) the delta method is used to obtain the standard error of the estimate of the product. Second, a linear mixed-effects model is fit that allows for the specification of an appropriate correlation structure among repeated measurements. The delta method is again used to obtain the standard error. Finally, a non-linear mixed-effects approach is taken to fit the linear-mixed-effects model and conduct the test. A simulation study investigates the properties of the procedure.
PMCID: PMC4206214  PMID: 25346580
Multivariate multiple regression; linear mixed-effects model; non-linear mixed effects model; repeated measures; delta method
15.  Exercise and the Brain: A Slap on the HAND 
Journal of neurovirology  2013;19(5):10.1007/s13365-013-0208-4.
PMCID: PMC3851339  PMID: 24072548
16.  Dietary Energy Intake Modifies Brainstem Autonomic Dysfunction Caused by Mutant α-Synuclein 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;34(3):928-935.
Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients often exhibit impaired regulation of heart rate by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) that may precede motor symptoms in many cases. Results of autopsy studies suggest that brainstem pathology, including the accumulation of α-synuclein, precedes damage to dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra in PD. However, the molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for the early dysfunction of brainstem autonomic neurons are unknown. Here we report that mice expressing a mutant form of α-synuclein that causes familial PD exhibit aberrant autonomic control of the heart characterized by elevated resting heart rate and an impaired cardiovascular stress response, associated with reduced parasympathetic activity and accumulation of α-synuclein in the brainstem. These ANS abnormalities occur early in the disease process. Adverse effects of α-synuclein on the control of heart rate are exacerbated by a high energy diet and ameliorated by intermittent energy restriction. Our findings establish a mouse model of early dysregulation of brainstem control of the cardiovascular system in PD, and further suggest the potential for energy restriction to attenuate ANS dysfunction, particularly in overweight individuals.
PMCID: PMC3498580  PMID: 22883907
α-synuclein; acetylcholine; ANS; BDNF; brainstem; parasympathetic; Parkinson’s disease
17.  Effects of Cerium Oxide Nanoparticles on the Growth of Keratinocytes, Fibroblasts and Vascular Endothelial Cells in Cutaneous Wound Healing 
Biomaterials  2012;34(9):2194-2201.
Rapid and effective wound healing requires a coordinated cellular response involving fibroblasts, keratinocytes and vascular endothelial cells (VECs). Impaired wound healing can result in multiple adverse health outcomes and, although antibiotics can forestall infection, treatments that accelerate wound healing are lacking. We now report that topical application of water soluble cerium oxide nanoparticles (Nanoceria) accelerates the healing of full-thickness dermal wounds in mice by a mechanism that involves enhancement of the proliferation and migration of fibroblasts, keratinocytes and VECs. The Nanoceria penetrated into the wound tissue and reduced oxidative damage to cellular membranes and proteins, suggesting a therapeutic potential for topical treatment of wounds with antioxidant nanoparticles.
PMCID: PMC3552035  PMID: 23266256
Cerium oxide nanoparticles; angiogenesis; vascular endothelial cells; keratinocytes; fibroblasts; wound healing; oxidative stress
18.  Superior pattern processing is the essence of the evolved human brain 
Humans have long pondered the nature of their mind/brain and, particularly why its capacities for reasoning, communication and abstract thought are far superior to other species, including closely related anthropoids. This article considers superior pattern processing (SPP) as the fundamental basis of most, if not all, unique features of the human brain including intelligence, language, imagination, invention, and the belief in imaginary entities such as ghosts and gods. SPP involves the electrochemical, neuronal network-based, encoding, integration, and transfer to other individuals of perceived or mentally-fabricated patterns. During human evolution, pattern processing capabilities became increasingly sophisticated as the result of expansion of the cerebral cortex, particularly the prefrontal cortex and regions involved in processing of images. Specific patterns, real or imagined, are reinforced by emotional experiences, indoctrination and even psychedelic drugs. Impaired or dysregulated SPP is fundamental to cognitive and psychiatric disorders. A broader understanding of SPP mechanisms, and their roles in normal and abnormal function of the human brain, may enable the development of interventions that reduce irrational decisions and destructive behaviors.
PMCID: PMC4141622  PMID: 25202234
evolution; hippocampus; language disorders; religion and science; neuronal network
19.  Impulsivity is Associated with Uric Acid: Evidence from Humans and Mice 
Biological psychiatry  2013;75(1):10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.02.024.
The ability to control impulses varies greatly, and difficulty with impulse control can have severe consequences; in the extreme, it is the defining feature of many psychiatric disorders. Evidence from disparate lines of research suggests that uric acid is elevated in psychiatric disorders characterized by high impulsivity, such as ADHD and bipolar disorder. The present research tests the hypothesis that impulsivity is associated with higher uric acid in humans and mice.
Using two longitudinal, non-clinical community samples (total N=6883), we test whether there is an association between uric acid and normal variation in trait impulsivity measured with the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. We also examined the effect of uric acid on behavior by comparing wild-type mice (WT), which naturally have low levels of uric acid, to mice genetically modified (UOX) to accumulate high levels of uric acid.
In both human samples, the emotional aspects of trait impulsivity, specifically Impulsiveness and Excitement-Seeking, were associated with higher levels of uric acid concurrently and when uric acid was measured 3–5 years later. Consistent with the human data, the UOX mice displayed significantly more exploratory and novelty-seeking behavior than the WT mice.
Higher uric acid was associated with impulsivity in both humans and mice. The identification of biological markers of impulsivity may lead to a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms involved in impulsivity, and may suggest potential targets for therapeutic intervention.
PMCID: PMC3859133  PMID: 23582268
Impulsivity; Personality traits; Uric Acid; Mouse Model; Excitement-Seeking; Impulse Control
20.  A ketone ester diet exhibits anxiolytic and cognition-sparing properties, and lessens amyloid and tau pathologies in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease 
Neurobiology of aging  2012;34(6):1530-1539.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) involves progressive accumulation of amyloid β-peptide (Aβ) and neurofibrillary pathologies, and glucose hypometabolism in brain regions critical for memory. The 3xTgAD mouse model was used to test the hypothesis that a ketone ester–based diet can ameliorate AD pathogenesis. Beginning at a presymptomatic age, 2 groups of male 3xTgAD mice were fed a diet containing a physiological enantiomeric precursor of ketone bodies (KET) or an isocaloric carbohydrate diet. The results of behavioral tests performed at 4 and 7 months after diet initiation revealed that KET-fed mice exhibited significantly less anxiety in 2 different tests. 3xTgAD mice on the KET diet also exhibited significant, albeit relatively subtle, improvements in performance on learning and memory tests. Immunohistochemical analyses revealed that KET-fed mice exhibited decreased Aβ deposition in the subiculum, CA1 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus, and the amygdala. KET-fed mice exhibited reduced levels of hyperphosphorylated tau deposition in the same regions of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cortex. Thus, a novel ketone ester can ameliorate proteopathic and behavioral deficits in a mouse AD model.
PMCID: PMC3619192  PMID: 23276384
Cognitive deficits; Hippocampus; Amygdala; 3xTgAD; Frontotemporal lobe dementia; Energy Metabolism; Anxiety
21.  Neuron-specific expression of tomosyn1 in the mouse hippocampal dentate gyrus impairs spatial learning and memory 
Neuromolecular medicine  2013;15(2):351-363.
Tomosyn, a syntaxin-binding protein, is known to inhibit vesicle priming and synaptic transmission via interference with the formation of SNARE complexes. Using a lentiviral vector, we specifically overexpressed tomosyn1 in hippocampal dentate gyrus neurons in adult mice. Mice were then subjected to spatial learning and memory tasks and electrophysiological measurements from hippocampal slices. Tomosyn1-overexpression significantly impaired hippocampus-dependent spatial memory while tested in the Morris water maze. Further, tomosyn1-overexpressing mice utilize swimming strategies of lesser cognitive ability in the Morris water maze compared with control mice. Electrophysiological measurements at mossy fiber-CA3 synapses revealed impaired paired-pulse facilitation in the mossy fiber of tomosyn1-overexpressing mice. This study provides evidence for novel roles for tomosyn1 in hippocampus-dependent spatial learning and memory, potentially via decreased synaptic transmission in mossy fiber-CA3 synapses. Moreover, it provides new insight regarding the role of the hippocampal dentate gyrus and mossy fiber-CA3 synapses in swimming strategy preference, and in learning and memory.
PMCID: PMC3651758  PMID: 23519441
22.  Tweaking Energy Metabolism to Prevent and Treat Neurological Disorders 
Accumulating data from epidemiological and clinical studies, and from animal models, point to pivotal roles for disordered behavioral and neuroendocrine control of energy metabolism in the pathogenesis of several major neurodegenerative disorders. Particularly troubling is the mounting evidence that excessive dietary energy intake and a sedentary lifestyle render the brain vulnerable not only to stroke, but also to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Recent advances in understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which energy intake and expenditure affect neuronal vulnerability are leading to novel therapeutic interventions that increase the durability and resiliency of the brain during aging.
PMCID: PMC3743231  PMID: 20856237
23.  Intermittent fasting attenuates lipopolysaccharide-induced neuroinflammation and memory impairment 
Systemic bacterial infections often result in enduring cognitive impairment and are a risk factor for dementia. There are currently no effective treatments for infection-induced cognitive impairment. Previous studies have shown that intermittent fasting (IF) can increase the resistance of neurons to injury and disease by stimulating adaptive cellular stress responses. However, the impact of IF on the cognitive sequelae of systemic and brain inflammation is unknown.
Rats on IF for 30 days received 1 mg/kg of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or saline intravenously. Half of the rats were subjected to behavioral tests and the other half were euthanized two hours after LPS administration and the hippocampus was dissected and frozen for analyses.
Here, we report that IF ameliorates cognitive deficits in a rat model of sepsis by a mechanism involving NF-κB activation, suppression of the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, and enhancement of neurotrophic support. Treatment of rats with LPS resulted in deficits in cognitive performance in the Barnes maze and inhibitory avoidance tests, without changing locomotor activity, that were ameliorated in rats that had been maintained on the IF diet. IF also resulted in reduced levels of mRNAs encoding the LPS receptor TLR4 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in the hippocampus. Moreover, IF prevented LPS-induced elevation of IL-1α, IL-1β and TNF-α levels, and prevented the LPS-induced reduction of BDNF levels in the hippocampus. IF also significantly attenuated LPS-induced elevations of serum IL-1β, IFN-γ, RANTES, TNF-α and IL-6 levels.
Taken together, our results suggest that IF induces adaptive responses in the brain and periphery that can suppress inflammation and preserve cognitive function in an animal model of systemic bacterial infection.
PMCID: PMC4041059  PMID: 24886300
Intermittent fasting; Inflammation; TLR4; Memory
24.  Aging and Neuronal Vulnerability 
Nature reviews. Neuroscience  2006;7(4):278-294.
Everyone ages, but only some will acquire a neurodegenerative disorder in the process. Disease might occur when cells fail to respond adaptively to age-related increases in oxidative, metabolic and ionic stress resulting in excessive accumulation of damaged proteins, DNA and membranes. Determinants of neuronal vulnerability might include cell size and location, metabolism of disease-specific proteins, and repertoire of signal transduction pathways and stress resistance mechanisms. Emerging evidence on protein interaction networks that monitor and respond to the normal aging process suggests that successful neural aging is possible for most, but also cautions that cures for neurodegenerative disorders are unlikely in the near future.
PMCID: PMC3710114  PMID: 16552414
25.  Naphthazarin Protects Against Glutamate-Induced Neuronal Death Via Activation of the Nrf2/ARE pathway 
Nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)/ antioxidant response element (ARE) pathway is an important cellular stress response pathway involved in neuroprotection. We previously screened several natural phytochemicals and identified plumbagin as a novel activator of the Nrf2/ARE pathway that can protect neurons against ischemic injury. Here we extended our studies to natural and synthetic derivatives of plumbagin. We found that 5,8-dimethoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone (naphthazarin) is a potent activator of the Nrf2/ARE pathway, up-regulates the expression of Nrf2-driven genes in primary neuronal and glial cultures, and protects neurons against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity.
PMCID: PMC3652233  PMID: 23537652
Nrf2; glutamate; naphthazarin; antioxidant response element

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