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1.  Morphologic Evidence for Spatially Clustered Spines in Apical Dendrites of Monkey Neocortical Pyramidal Cells 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(13):2888-2902.
The general organization of neocortical connectivity in rhesus monkey is relatively well understood. However, mounting evidence points to an organizing principle that involves clustered synapses at the level of individual dendrites. Several synaptic plasticity studies have reported cooperative interaction between neighboring synapses on a given dendritic branch, which may potentially induce synapse clusters. Additionally, theoretical models have predicted that such cooperativity is advantageous, in that it greatly enhances a neuron’s computational repertoire. However, largely because of the lack of sufficient morphologic data, the existence of clustered synapses in neurons on a global scale has never been established. The majority of excitatory synapses are found within dendritic spines. In this study, we demonstrate that spine clusters do exist on pyramidal neurons by analyzing the three-dimensional locations of ~40,000 spines on 280 apical dendritic branches in layer III of the rhesus monkey prefrontal cortex. By using clustering algorithms and Monte Carlo simulations, we quantify the probability that the observed extent of clustering does not occur randomly. This provides a measure that tests for spine clustering on a global scale, whenever high-resolution morphologic data are available. Here we demonstrate that spine clusters occur significantly more frequently than expected by pure chance and that spine clustering is concentrated in apical terminal branches. These findings indicate that spine clustering is driven by systematic biological processes. We also found that mushroom-shaped and stubby spines are predominant in clusters on dendritic segments that display prolific clustering, independently supporting a causal link between spine morphology and synaptic clustering.
doi:10.1002/cne.23070
PMCID: PMC3573331  PMID: 22315181
clustering; dendritic spines; plasticity; morphology; image analysis
2.  Neuropil distribution in the cerebral cortex differs between humans and chimpanzees 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2012;520(13):2917-2929.
Increased connectivity of higher-order association regions in the neocortex has been proposed as a defining feature of human brain evolution. At present, however, there are limited comparative data to examine this claim fully. We tested the hypothesis that the distribution of neuropil across areas of the neocortex of humans differs from that of one of our closest living relatives, the common chimpanzee. The neuropil provides a proxy measure of total connectivity within a local region because it is comprised mostly of dendrites, axons, and synapses. Using image analysis techniques, we quantified the neuropil fraction from both hemispheres in six cytoarchitectonically defined regions including frontopolar cortex (area 10), Broca’s area (area 45), frontoinsular cortex (area FI), primary motor cortex (area 4), primary auditory cortex (area 41/42), and the planum temporale (area 22). Our results demonstrate that humans exhibit a unique distribution of neuropil in the neocortex compared to chimpanzees. In particular, the human frontopolar cortex and the frontoinsular cortex had a significantly higher neuropil fraction than the other areas. In chimpanzees these prefrontal regions did not display significantly more neuropil, but the primary auditory cortex had a lower neuropil fraction than other areas. Our results support the conclusion that enhanced connectivity in the prefrontal cortex accompanied the evolution of the human brain. These species differences in neuropil distribution may offer insight into the neural basis of human cognition, reflecting enhancement of the integrative capacity of the prefrontal cortex.
doi:10.1002/cne.23074
PMCID: PMC3556724  PMID: 22350926
cytoarchitecture; evolution; brain; asymmetry
3.  Comparative Anatomy of the Locus Coeruleus in Humans and Non-Human Primates 
The locus coeruleus (LC) is a dense cluster of neurons that projects axons throughout the neuroaxis and is located in the rostral pontine tegmentum extending from the level of the inferior colliculus to the motor nucleus of the trigeminal nerve. LC neurons are lost in the course of several neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. In this study, we used Nissl staining and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) immunoreactivity to compare the human LC with that of closely related primate species, including great and lesser apes, and macaque monkeys. TH catalyzes the initial and rate-limiting step in catecholamine biosynthesis. The number of TH-immunoreactive (TH-ir) neurons was estimated in each species using stereologic methods. In the LC of humans, the mean total number of TH-ir neurons was significantly higher compared to the other primates. Because the total number of TH-ir neurons in the LC was highly correlated with the species mean volume of the medulla oblongata, cerebellum, and neocortical gray matter, we conclude that much of the observed phylogenetic variation can be explained by anatomical scaling. Notably, the total number of LC neurons in humans was most closely predicted by the nonhuman allometric scaling relationship relative to medulla size, whereas the number of LC neurons in humans was considerably lower than predicted according to neocortex and cerebellum volume.
doi:10.1002/cne.22249
PMCID: PMC2820586  PMID: 20127761
Locus coeruleus; non-human primates; hominids; tyrosine hydroxylase; stereology
4.  REPEATED STRESS ALTERS DENDRITIC SPINE MORPHOLOGY IN THE RAT MEDIAL PREFRONTAL CORTEX 
The Journal of comparative neurology  2008;507(1):1141-1150.
Anatomical alterations in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are associated with hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation, altered stress hormone levels, and psychiatric symptoms of stress-related mental illnesses. Functional imaging studies reveal impairment and shrinkage of the mPFC in such conditions, and these findings are paralleled by experimental studies showing dendritic retraction and spine loss following repeated stress in rodents. Here we extend this characterization to how repeated stress affects dendritic spine morphology in mPFC through the utilization of an automated approach which rapidly digitizes, reconstructs 3-dimensionally, and calculates geometric features of neurons. Rats were perfused after being subjected to 3 weeks of daily restraint stress (6 hours/day), and intracellular injections of Lucifer Yellow were made in layers II/III pyramidal neurons in the dorsal mPFC. To reveal spines in all angles of orientation, deconvolved high-resolution confocal laser scanning microscopy image stacks of dendritic segments were reconstructed and analyzed for spine volume, surface area, and length using a Rayburst-based automated approach (8,091 and 8,987 spines for control and stress, respectively). We found that repeated stress results in an overall decrease in mean dendritic spine volume and surface area, which was most pronounced in the distal portion of apical dendritic fields. Moreover, we observed an overall shift in the population of spines, manifested by a reduction in large spines and increase in small spines. These results suggest a failure of spines to mature and stabilize following repeated stress, and are likely to have major repercussions on function, receptor expression, and synaptic efficacy.
doi:10.1002/cne.21588
PMCID: PMC2796421  PMID: 18157834
dendritic spine; morphometry; plasticity; prefrontal cortex; stress
5.  Antidepressant drug-induced stimulation of mouse hippocampal neurogenesis is age-dependent and altered by early life stress 
The continuous generation of new neurons in the adult hippocampus exhibits remarkable plasticity. Decreased neurogenesis is thought to underlie depression-like behaviors, and increased neurogenesis is thought to occur following antidepressant drug treatment. Studies on different strains of mice, however, yielded contrasting results with regard to the link between behavioral modifications induced by antidepressant drugs or environmental enrichment and changes in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Therefore, we conducted a comparative study on the inbred strains Balb/c and C57Bl/6 that differ substantially in emotionality, stress reactivity, and behavioral responses to chronic antidepressant drugs. Quantitative assessments of progenitor cell proliferation and immature neuronal differentiation in the dentate gyrus revealed that, despite significantly different basal proliferation rates between both strains, neither strain exhibited changes in adult neurogenesis after exposure to early life stress or adult chronic fluoxetine treatment. A stimulatory effect of fluoxetine on adult hippocampal neurogenesis was only detected when treatment was initiated during adolescence, and this effect was abolished in mice exposed to early life stress, a prominent risk factor for developing adult-onset depression-like behaviors. Thus, in both strains of mice, neither adult fluoxetine treatment nor adolescent fluoxetine treatment following early life stress exposure increased the proliferation and early differentiation of adult neural progenitor cells.
doi:10.1002/cne.21775
PMCID: PMC2502065  PMID: 18512685
inbred mouse strains; depression; early life stress; fluoxetine; adult progenitor cell proliferation; adult progenitor cell differentiation
6.  Histological Asymmetries of Primary Motor Cortex Predict Handedness in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) 
Like humans, chimpanzees display robust and consistent hand preferences during the performance of certain tasks. Although correlations have been demonstrated between gross anatomic measures of primary motor cortex asymmetry and handedness in captive chimpanzees, the relationship between histological architecture and behavioral lateralization has not yet been investigated. Therefore, we examined interhemispheric asymmetry of several different microstructural characteristics of the primary motor cortex in the region of hand representation from 18 chimpanzees tested on a coordinated bimanual task before death. At the population level our data showed leftward bias for higher layer II/III neuron density. Of note, however, there was no population-level asymmetry in the areal fraction of Nissl-stained cell bodies, a finding that differs from previous studies of this cortical region in humans. Nonetheless, we found that asymmetry in the density of layer II/III parvalbumin-immunoreactive interneurons was the best predictor of individual hand preference. These results suggest that histological asymmetries are related to handedness in chimpanzees, while overall patterns of asymmetry at the population level might differ from humans.
doi:10.1002/cne.21399
PMCID: PMC2680156  PMID: 17534947
primary motor cortex; handedness; interneuron; parvalbumin; brain evolution

Results 1-6 (6)