Social interaction deficits and restricted repetitive behaviors and interests that characterize autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may both reflect aberrant functioning of brain reward circuits. However, no neuroimaging study to date has investigated the integrity of reward circuits using an incentive delay paradigm in individuals with ASDs. In the present study, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to assess blood-oxygen level-dependent activation during reward anticipation and outcomes in 15 participants with an ASD and 16 matched control participants. Brain activation was assessed during anticipation of and in response to monetary incentives and object image incentives previously shown to be visually salient for individuals with ASDs (e.g. trains, electronics). Participants with ASDs showed decreased nucleus accumbens activation during monetary anticipation and outcomes, but not during object anticipation or outcomes. Group × reward-type-interaction tests revealed robust interaction effects in bilateral nucleus accumbens during reward anticipation and in ventromedial prefrontal cortex during reward outcomes, indicating differential responses contingent on reward type in these regions. Results suggest that ASDs are characterized by reward-circuitry hypoactivation in response to monetary incentives but not in response to autism-relevant object images. The clinical implications of the double dissociation of reward type and temporal phase in reward circuitry function in ASD are discussed.
autism; reward; nucleus accumbens; anticipation; functional magnetic resonance imaging
The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to characterize hemodynamic activation patterns recruited when participants view mixed social communicative messages during a common interpersonal exchange. Mixed messages were defined as conflicting sequences of biological motion and facial affect signals that are unexpected within a particular social context (for example, observing the reception of a gift). Across four social vignettes, valenced facial expressions were crossed with rejecting and accepting gestures in a virtual avatar responding to presentation of a gift from the participant. Results indicate that conflicting facial affect and gesture activated superior temporal sulcus, a region implicated in expectancy violations, as well as inferior frontal gyrus and putamen. Scenarios conveying rejection differentially activated the insula and putamen, regions implicated in embodied cognition and motivated learning, as well as frontoparietal cortex. Characterizing how meaning is inferred from integration of conflicting nonverbal communicative cues is essential to understand nuances and complexities of human exchange.
social cognition; social rejection; biological motion; emotional expression; multisensory integration; functional magnetic resonance imaging; autism
Prior efforts to train medical journal peer reviewers have not improved subsequent review quality, although such interventions were general and brief. We hypothesized that a manuscript-specific and more extended intervention pairing new reviewers with high-quality senior reviewers as mentors would improve subsequent review quality.
Over a four-year period we randomly assigned all new reviewers for Annals of Emergency Medicine to receive our standard written informational materials alone, or these materials plus a new mentoring intervention. For this program we paired new reviewers with a high-quality senior reviewer for each of their first three manuscript reviews, and asked mentees to discuss their review with their mentor by email or phone. We then compared the quality of subsequent reviews between the control and intervention groups, using linear mixed effects models of the slopes of review quality scores over time.
We studied 490 manuscript reviews, with similar baseline characteristics between the 24 mentees who completed the trial and the 22 control reviewers. Mean quality scores for the first 3 reviews on our 1 to 5 point scale were similar between control and mentee groups (3.4 versus 3.5), as were slopes of change of review scores (-0.229 versus -0.549) and all other secondary measures of reviewer performance.
A structured training intervention of pairing newly recruited medical journal peer reviewers with senior reviewer mentors did not improve the quality of their subsequent reviews.
Mentoring; Peer review; Scientific publication; Critical analysis; Journal peer reviewer
Spiral ganglion Schwann cells (SGSCs) myelinate spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) and represent a potential source of neurotrophic support for SGNs. Deafening due to loss of hair cells results in gradual degeneration and death of SGNs. Successful efforts to maintain or regenerate a functional auditory nerve may depend on a healthy population of SGSCs, yet the responses of SGSCs to neural injury remain largely unknown. Here we investigate the role of p75NTR in SGSC responses to gradual denervation. Following deafening, SGSCs in the osseous spiral lamina (OSL) and, subsequently, in Rosenthal's canal (RC) expressed elevated p75NTR compared to hearing controls. p75NTR-positive cells co-labeled with S100 and RIP antibodies (Schwann cell markers), but not with anti-neurofilament. The pattern of p75NTR expression mirrored the pattern of neural degeneration, beginning in the OSL of the cochlea base and later extending into the apex. SGSCs expressed sortilin, a p75NTR co-receptor for pro-neurotrophins. Both pro-nerve growth factor (pro-NGF) and pro-brain derived neurotrophic factor (proBDNF) induced apoptosis in cultured SGSCs. Deafened animals exhibited significantly higher levels of SGSC proliferation (as measured by BrdU uptake) compared to hearing animals while total Schwann cell density remained stable, suggesting a tight regulation of SGSC proliferation and cell death. SGSCs undergoing cell division lose p75NTR expression from the cell surface and demonstrate nuclear localization of the intracellular domain (ICD), raising the possibility that p75NTR cleavage and ICD nuclear localization regulate SGSC proliferation. These results suggest that p75NTR contributes to SGSC responses to deafening and neural degeneration.
cell cycle; neuron; sortilin; auditory nerve; apoptosis
Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) is a multifunctional protein kinase crucial for neuronal apoptosis as well as neurite growth. We have previously shown that JNK activity is correlated with spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) apoptosis following hair cell loss in rats (Alam et al., 2007) implying that JNK inhibition may have therapeutic potential to protect SGNs in deaf individuals. Here we investigated the role of JNK in neurite outgrowth from cultured neonatal rat and mouse SGNs. We show that JNK is required for initial growth of neurites and for continued extension of already established neurites. The effect of JNK inhibition on neurite growth is rapid and is also rapidly reversible after washout of the inhibitor. Using phosphoJNK immunoreactivity as an indicator, we show that JNK is activated in growth cones within 30 min after transfer to medium lacking neurotrophic stimuli (5K medium) but activation in the nucleus and soma requires hours. By transfecting epitope-tagged JNK1, JNK2, or JNK3 isoforms into SGNs, we found that all are present in the nucleus and cytoplasm and that there is no preferential redistribution to the nucleus after transfer to 5K medium. Cotransfection of dominant-negative (dn) JNK1 and JNK2 into SGNs reduced neurite growth, although transfection of dnJNK1 or dnJNK2 alone had no significant effect. SGNs cultured from JNK3−/− mice showed reduced neurite growth that was further reduced by transfection of dnJNK1 and dnJNK2. This indicates that all three JNK isoforms promote SGN neurite growth although there may be functional redundancy between JNK1 and JNK2.
spiral ganglion neuron; neurite; JNK; c-Jun N-terminal kinase
Mutations in PTEN-induced kinase 1 (PINK1) are associated with a familial syndrome related to Parkinson’s disease (PD). We previously reported that stable neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cell lines with reduced expression of endogenous PINK1 exhibit mitochondrial fragmentation, increased mitochondria-derived superoxide, induction of compensatory macroautophagy/mitophagy and a low level of ongoing cell death. Here, we investigated the ability of protein kinase A (PKA) to confer protection in this model, focusing on its subcellular targeting. Either: 1) treatment with pharmacological PKA activators; 2) transient expression of a constitutively active form of mitochondria-targeted PKA; or 3) transient expression of wild-type AKAP1, a scaffold that targets endogenous PKA to mitochondria, reversed each of the phenotypes attributed to loss of PINK1 in SH-SY5Y cells, and rescued parameters of mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction. Mitochondrial and lysosomal changes in primary cortical neurons derived from PINK1 knockout mice or subjected to PINK1 RNAi were also reversed by activation of PKA. PKA phosphorylates the rat dynamin-related protein 1 isoform 1 (Drp1) at serine 656 (homologous to human serine 637), inhibiting its pro-fission function. Mimicking phosphorylation of Drp1 recapitulated many of the protective effects of AKAP1/PKA. These data indicate that redirecting endogenous PKA to mitochondria can compensate for deficiencies in PINK1 function, highlighting the importance of compartmentalized signaling networks in mitochondrial quality control.
PINK1; PKA; AKAP1; neurodegeneration; mitochondria and mitophagy
This commentary discusses advances in the conceptual understanding of racism and selected research findings in the social neurosciences. The traditional stress and coping model holds that racism constitutes a source of aversive experiences that, when perceived by the individual, eventually lead to poor health outcomes. Current evidence points to additional psychophysiological pathways linking facets of racist environments with physiological reactions that contribute to disease. The alternative pathways emphasize prenatal experiences, subcortical emotional neural circuits, conscious and preconscious emotion regulation, perseverative cognitions, and negative affective states stemming from racist cognitive schemata. Recognition of these pathways challenges change agents to use an array of cognitive and self-controlling interventions in mitigating racism’s impact. Additionally, it charges policy makers to develop strategies that eliminate deep-seated structural aspects of racism in society.
Racism; Health Disparities; Behavioral Interventions; Psychosocial Stress
Spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) are postsynaptic to hair cells and project to the brainstem. The inner hair cell (IHC) to SGN synapse is susceptible to glutamate excitotoxicity and to acoustic trauma, with potentially adverse consequences to long-term SGN survival. We used a cochlear explant culture from P6 rat pups consisting of a portion of organ of Corti maintained intact with the corresponding portion of spiral ganglion to investigate excitotoxic damage to IHC-SGN synapses in vitro. The normal innervation pattern is preserved in vitro. Brief treatment with NMDA and kainate results in loss of IHC–SGN synapses and degeneration of the distal type 1 SGN peripheral axons, mimicking damage to SGN peripheral axons caused by excitotoxicity or noise in vivo. The number of IHC presynaptic ribbons is not significantly altered. Reinnervation of IHCs occurs and regenerating axons remain restricted to the IHC row. However, the number of postsynaptic densities (PSDs) does not fully recover and not all axons regrow to the IHCs. Addition of either NT-3 or BDNF increases axon growth and synaptogenesis. Selective blockade of endogenous NT-3 signaling with TrkC-IgG reduced regeneration of axons and PSDs, but TrkB-IgG, which blocks BDNF, has no such effect, indicating that endogenous NT-3 is necessary for SGN axon growth and synaptogenesis. Remarkably, TrkC-IgG reduced axon growth and synaptogenesis even in the presence of BDNF, indicating that endogenous NT-3 has a distinctive role, not mimicked by BDNF, in promoting SGN axon growth in the organ of Corti and synaptogenesis on IHCs.
spiral ganglion neuron; NT-3; BDNF; cochlea; glutamate; hair cell; neurotrophin; synaptogenesis
The mitochondrial signaling complex PKA/AKAP1 protects neurons against
mitochondrial fragmentation and cell death by phosphorylating and inactivating
the mitochondrial fission enzyme Drp1.
Mitochondrial shape is determined by fission and fusion reactions catalyzed by
large GTPases of the dynamin family, mutation of which can cause neurological
dysfunction. While fission-inducing protein phosphatases have been identified,
the identity of opposing kinase signaling complexes has remained elusive. We
report here that in both neurons and non-neuronal cells, cAMP elevation and
expression of an outer-mitochondrial membrane (OMM) targeted form of the protein
kinase A (PKA) catalytic subunit reshapes mitochondria into an interconnected
network. Conversely, OMM-targeting of the PKA inhibitor PKI promotes
mitochondrial fragmentation upstream of neuronal death. RNAi and overexpression
approaches identify mitochondria-localized A kinase anchoring protein 1 (AKAP1)
as a neuroprotective and mitochondria-stabilizing factor in vitro and in vivo.
According to epistasis studies with phosphorylation site-mutant dynamin-related
protein 1 (Drp1), inhibition of the mitochondrial fission enzyme through a
conserved PKA site is the principal mechanism by which cAMP and PKA/AKAP1
promote both mitochondrial elongation and neuronal survival. Phenocopied by a
mutation that slows GTP hydrolysis, Drp1 phosphorylation inhibits the
disassembly step of its catalytic cycle, accumulating large, slowly recycling
Drp1 oligomers at the OMM. Unopposed fusion then promotes formation of a
mitochondrial reticulum, which protects neurons from diverse insults.
Mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse, are highly dynamic organelles shaped by
opposing fission and fusion events. Research over the past decade has identified
many components of the mitochondrial fission/fusion machinery and led to the
discovery that mutations in genes coding for these proteins can cause human
neurological diseases. While it is well established that mitochondrial shape
changes are intimately involved in cellular responses to environmental
stressors, we know very little about the mechanisms by which cells dynamically
adjust mitochondrial form and function. In this report, we show that the
scaffold protein AKAP1 brings the cAMP-dependent protein kinase PKA to the outer
mitochondrial membrane to protect neurons from injury. The PKA/AKAP1 complex
functions by inhibiting Drp1, an enzyme that mechanically constricts and
eventually severs mitochondria. Whereas active, dephosphorylated Drp1 rapidly
cycles between cytosol and mitochondria, phosphorylated Drp1 builds up in
inactive mitochondrial complexes, allowing mitochondria to fuse into a
neuroprotective reticulum. Our results suggest that altering the balance of
kinase and phosphatase activities at the outer mitochondrial membrane may
provide the basis for novel neuroprotective therapies.
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a naturalistic joint attention scenario to evaluate two, alternative hypotheses concerning the social brain. The first, Content Specific Attribution hypothesis, was that core regions previously identified as being involved in social cognition also participate in representing the contents of another mind. The second, Dual Role hypothesis, was that extrastriate, category-specific visual regions respond to a visible stimulus of a specific category and to the same stimulus occluded, but when it appears to be the focus of another person’s visual attention. Participants viewed category-specific stimuli (Place and Body images) to localize the extrastriate body area (EBA) and parahippocampal place area (PPA). Then, they observed a computerized character viewing each stimulus category, occluded from the participant’s view. In support of the Content Specific Attribution hypothesis, whole-brain analyses revealed that viewing someone else looking at an occluded picture of a body activated brain regions previously associated with components of social cognition more than viewing someone else looking at an occluded picture of a place. Counter to the Dual Role hypothesis, functional region of interest (ROI) analyses revealed that the EBA and PPA were not clearly involved in representing what the character was seeing.
fMRI; body; place; occlusion; social perception
The ability to make decisions within an emotional context requires a balance between two functionally integrated neural systems that primarily support executive control and affective processing. Several studies have demonstrated effects of emotional interference presented during an ongoing cognitive task, but it is unclear how activating the emotional circuitry prior to a cognitive task may enhance or disrupt the executive system. In this study we used fMRI to examine the effects of emotional priming on executive processing during a number Stroop task. Our results indicated that during trials with less executive requirements, there was a greater aversive emotional attenuation effect in a network of regions including the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (vlPFC), insula and cingulate gyrus. This attenuation effect was counteracted during trials with increased executive demand, suggesting that while pre-activation of the emotional system may lead to an automatic attenuation of activity in multiple regions, requirements for executive function may override the aversive emotional attenuation effect. Furthermore, this override effect was found to be associated with faster reaction times during executive processing. These findings demonstrate that activity in the vlPFC, cingulate and insula is dynamically adjusted in order to optimize performance, and illustrate the importance of the timing of each system’s engagement in determining how competing cognitive and emotional information is processed.
Unipolar Depression; Ventral Striatum; Dorsal Striatum; Cingulate Gyrus; fMRI; Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Epileptiform activity (EA) in vivo and in vitro induces a loss of dendritic spines and synapses. Because CaMKII has been implicated in synaptogenesis and synaptic plasticity, we investigated the role of CaMKII in the effects of EA on spines, using rat hippocampal slice cultures. To visualize dendrites and postsynaptic densities (PSDs) in pyramidal neurons in the slices, we used biolistic transfection to express either free GFP or a PSD-95-YFP construct that specifically labels PSDs. This allowed us to distinguish two classes of dendritic protrusions: spines, that contain PSDs, and filopodia, that lack PSDs, and which are, on average, longer than spines. By these criteria, 48 hour of EA caused a decrease specifically in the number of spines. Immunoblots showed that EA increased CaMKII activity in the slices. Inhibition of CaMKII by expression of AIP, a specific peptide inhibitor of CaMKII, reduced spine number under basal conditions and failed to prevent EA-induced spine loss. However, in EA conditions, AIP increased the number of filopodia and the number of PSDs on the dendritic shaft. These data show at least two roles for CaMKII activity in maintenance and remodeling of dendritic spines under basal or EA conditions: First, CaMKII activity promotes the maintenance of spines and spine PSDs. Second, CaMKII activity suppresses EA-induced formation of filopodia and suppresses an increase in shaft PSDs, apparently by promoting translocation of PSDs from dendritic shafts to spines and/or selectively stabilizing spine rather than shaft PSDs.
Epileptiform Activity; CaMKII; Hippocampal Slice Culture; Postsynaptic Density; Synaptogenesis
Determining the ways in which personality traits interact with contextual determinants to shape social behavior remains an important area of empirical investigation. The specific personality trait of neuroticism has been related to characteristic negative emotionality and associated with heightened attention to negative, emotionally arousing environmental signals. However, the mechanisms by which this personality trait may shape social behavior remain largely unspecified.
We employed eye tracking to investigate the relationship between characteristics of visual scanpaths in response to emotional facial expressions and individual differences in personality. We discovered that the amount of time spent looking at the eyes of fearful faces was positively related to neuroticism.
This finding is discussed in relation to previous behavioral research relating personality to selective attention for trait-congruent emotional information, neuroimaging studies relating differences in personality to amygdala reactivity to socially relevant stimuli, and genetic studies suggesting linkages between the serotonin transporter gene and neuroticism. We conclude that personality may be related to interpersonal interaction by shaping aspects of social cognition as basic as eye contact. In this way, eye gaze represents a possible behavioral link in a complex relationship between genes, brain function, and personality.
The effect of membrane electrical activity on spiral ganglion neuron (SGN) neurite growth remains unknown despite its relevance to cochlear implant technology. We demonstrate that membrane depolarization delays the initial formation and inhibits the subsequent extension of cultured SGN neurites. This inhibition depends directly on the level of depolarization with higher levels of depolarization causing retraction of existing neurites. Cultured SGNs express subunits for L-type, N-type, and P/Q type voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) and removal of extracellular Ca2+ or treatment with a combination of L-type, N-type, P/Q-type VGCC antagonists rescues SGN neurite growth under depolarizing conditions. By measuring the fluorescence intensity of SGNs loaded with the fluorogenic calpain substrate t-butoxy carbonyl-Leu-Met-chloromethylaminocoumarin (20 μM), we demonstrate that depolarization activates calpains. Calpeptin (15 μM), a calpain inhibitor, prevents calpain activation by depolarization and rescues neurite growth in depolarized SGNs suggesting that calpain activation contributes to the inhibition of neurite growth by depolarization.
auditory neuron; axon growth; Ca2+/calmodulin dependent kinase II
By fusing the CaMKII inhibitory peptide AIP to GFP, we constructed a specific and effective CaMKII inhibitor, GFP-AIP. Expression of GFP-AIP and/or dominant-inhibitory CaMKIV in cultured neonatal rat spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) shows that CaMKII and CaMKIV act additively and in parallel, to mediate the prosurvival effect of depolarization. Depolarization or expression of constitutively-active CaMKII functionally inactivates Bad, indicating that this is one means by which CaMKII promotes neuronal survival. CaMKIV, but not CaMKII, requires CREB to promote SGN survival, consistent with the exclusively nuclear localization of CaMKIV and indicating that the principal prosurvival function of CaMKIV is activation of CREB. Consistent with this, a constitutively-active CREB construct that provides a high level of CREB activity promotes SGN survival, although low levels of CREB activity did not do so. Also, in apoptotic SGNs, activation of CREB by depolarization is disabled, presumably as part of a cellular commitment to apoptosis.