Inhibitory interneurons participate in local processing circuits, playing a central role in executive cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex. Although humans differ from other primates in a number of cognitive domains, it is not currently known whether the interneuron system has changed in the course of primate evolution leading to our species. In this study, we examined the distribution of different interneuron subtypes in the prefrontal cortex of anthropoid primates as revealed by immunohistochemistry against the calcium-binding proteins calbindin, calretinin and parvalbumin. In addition, we tested whether genes involved in the specification, differentiation and migration of interneurons show evidence of positive selection in the evolution of humans. Our findings demonstrate that cellular distributions of interneuron subtypes in human prefrontal cortex are similar to other anthropoid primates and can be explained by general scaling rules. Furthermore, genes underlying interneuron development are highly conserved at the amino acid level in primate evolution. Taken together, these results suggest that the prefrontal cortex in humans retains a similar inhibitory circuitry to that in closely related primates, even though it performs functional operations that are unique to our species. Thus, it is likely that other significant modifications to the connectivity and molecular biology of the prefrontal cortex were overlaid on this conserved interneuron architecture in the course of human evolution.
language; theory of mind; prefrontal cortex; chimpanzee; great ape
Neural changes that occurred during human evolution to support language are poorly understood. As a basis of comparison to humans, we used design-based stereological methods to estimate volumes, total neuron numbers, and neuron densities in Brodmann's areas 44 and 45 in both cerebral hemispheres of 12 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), one of our species’ closest living relatives. We found that the degree of interindividual variation in the topographic location and quantitative cytoarchitecture of areas 44 and 45 in chimpanzees was comparable to that seen in humans from previous studies. However, in contrast to the documented asymmetries in humans, we did not find significant population-level hemispheric asymmetry for any measures of areas 44 and 45 in chimpanzees. Furthermore, there was no relationship between asymmetries of stereological data and magnetic resonance imaging–based measures of inferior frontal gyrus morphology or hand preference on 2 different behavioral tasks. These findings suggest that Broca's area in the left hemisphere expanded in relative size during human evolution, possibly as an adaptation for our species’ language abilities.
cytoarchitecture; evolution; great ape; handedness; stereology
Although substantial evidence indicates that the progression of pathological changes of the neuronal cytoskeleton is crucial in determining the severity of dementia in Alzheimer's disease (AD), the exact causes and evolution of these changes, the initial site at which they begin, and the neuronal susceptibility levels for their development are poorly understood. The current clinical criteria for diagnosis of AD are focused mostly on cognitive deficits produced by dysfunction of hippocampal and high-order neocortical areas, whereas non-cognitive, behavioural, and psychological symptoms of dementia such as disturbances in mood, emotion, appetite, and wake-sleep cycle, confusion, agitation, and depression, have been less considered. The early occurrence of these symptoms suggests brainstem involvement, and more specifically of the serotonergic nuclei. In spite of the fact that the Braak staging system and NIA-RI criteria do not include their evaluation, several recent reports drew attention to the possibility of selective and early involvement of raphe nuclei, particularly the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), in the pathogenesis of AD. Based on these findings of differential susceptibility and anatomical connectivity, a novel pathogenetic scheme of AD progression was proposed. Although the precise mechanisms of neurofibrillary degeneration still await elucidation, we speculated that cumulative oxidative damage may be the main cause of DRN alterations, as the age is the main risk factor for sporadic AD. Within such a framework, β–amyloid production is considered only as one of the factors (although a significant one in familial cases) that promotes molecular series of events underlying AD-related neuropathological changes.
aging; Alzheimer's disease; behavioural and psychological symptoms; cerebrospinal fluid; dorsal raphe nucleus; early diagnosis; fetal brain development; neurofibrillary degeneration; serotonin; tau protein
Chronic stress has been shown in animal models to result in altered dendritic morphology of pyramidal neurons of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). It has been hypothesized that the stress-induced dendritic retractions and spine loss lead to disrupted connectivity that results in stress-induced functional impairment of mPFC. While these alterations were initially viewed as a neurodegenerative event, it has recently been established that stress induced dendritic alterations are reversible if animals are given time to recover from chronic stress. However, whether spine growth accompanies dendritic extension remains to be demonstrated. It is also not known if recovery-phase dendritic extension allows for re-establishment of functional capacity. The goal of this study, therefore, was to characterize the structural and functional effects of chronic stress and recovery on the infralimbic (IL) region of the rat mPFC. We compared neuronal morphology of layer V IL pyramidal neurons from animals subjected to 21 days of chronic restraint stress (CRS) to those that experienced CRS followed by a 21 day recovery period. Layer V pyramidal cell functional capacity was assessed by intra-IL long-term potentiation (LTP) both in the absence and presence of SKF38393, a dopamine receptor partial agonist and a known PFC LTP modulator. We found that stress-induced IL apical dendritic retraction and spine loss co-occur with receptor-mediated impairments to catecholaminergic facilitation of synaptic plasticity. We also found that while post-stress recovery did not reverse distal dendritic retraction, it did result in over-extension of proximal dendritic neuroarchitecture and spine growth as well as a full reversal of CRS-induced impairments to catecholaminergic-mediated synaptic plasticity. Our results support the hypothesis that disease-related PFC dysfunction is a consequence of network disruption secondary to altered structural and functional plasticity and that circuitry reestablishment may underlie elements of recovery. Accordingly, we believe that pharmacological treatments targeted at preventing dendritic retraction and spine loss or encouraging circuitry reestablishment and stabilization may be advantageous in the prevention and treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.
infralimbic; dendritic morphology; dendritic spines; dopamine; long-term potentiation
Tracing the centerline of the dendritic arbor of neurons is a powerful technique for analyzing neuronal morphology. In the various neuron tracing algorithms in use nowadays, the competing goals of computational efficiency and robustness are generally traded off against each other. We present a novel method for tracing the centerline of a neuron from confocal image stacks, which provides an optimal balance between these objectives. Using only local information, thin cross-sectional layers of voxels (‘scoops’) are iteratively carved out of the structure, and clustered based on connectivity. Each cluster contributes a node along the centerline, which is created by connecting successive nodes until all object voxels are exhausted. While data segmentation is independent of this algorithm, we illustrate the use of the ISODATA method to achieve dynamic (local) segmentation. Diameter estimation at each node is calculated using the Rayburst Sampling algorithm, and spurious end nodes caused by surface irregularities are then removed. On standard computing hardware the algorithm can process hundreds of thousands of voxels per second, easily handling the multi-gigabyte datasets resulting from high-resolution confocal microscopy imaging of neurons. This method provides an accurate and efficient means for centerline extraction that is suitable for interactive neuron tracing applications.
Centerline Extraction; Neuron Tracing; Image Analysis; Medial Axis
Whereas neuronal numbers are largely preserved in normal aging, subtle morphological changes occur in dendrites and spines, whose electrotonic consequences remain unexplored. We examined age-related morphological alterations in 2 types of pyramidal neurons contributing to working memory circuits in the macaque prefrontal cortex (PFC): neurons in the superior temporal cortex forming “long” projections to the PFC and “local” projection neurons within the PFC. Global dendritic mass homeostasis, measured by 3-dimensional scaling analysis, was conserved with aging in both neuron types. Spine densities, dendrite diameters, lengths, and branching complexity were all significantly reduced in apical dendrites of long projection neurons with aging, but only spine parameters were altered in local projection neurons. Despite these differences, voltage attenuation due to passive electrotonic structure, assuming equivalent cable parameters, was significantly reduced with aging in the apical dendrites of both neuron classes. Confirming the electrotonic analysis, simulated passive backpropagating action potential efficacy was significantly higher in apical but not basal dendrites of old neurons. Unless compensated by changes in passive cable parameters, active membrane properties, or altered synaptic properties, these effects will increase the excitability of pyramidal neurons, compromising the precisely tuned activity required for working memory, ultimately resulting in age-related PFC dysfunction.
3-D morphometry; brain aging; dendritic spines; dendrites; electrotonic properties; pyramidal neurons; working memory
Chronic stress exposure has been reported to induce dendritic remodeling in several brain regions, but it is not known whether individual neural circuits show distinct patterns of remodeling. The current study tested the hypothesis that the projections from the infralimbic (IL) area of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) to the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BLA), a pathway relevant to stress-related mental illnesses like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, would have a unique pattern of remodeling in response to chronic stress. The retrograde tracer FastBlue was injected into male rats’ BLA or entorhinal cortex (EC) 1 week prior to 10 days of immobilization stress. After cessation of stress, FastBlue-labeled and unlabeled IL pyaramidal neurons were loaded with fluorescent dye Lucifer Yellow to visualize dendritic arborization and spine density. As has been previously reported, randomly selected (non-FastBlue-labeled) neurons showed stress-induced dendritic retraction in apical dendrites, an effect also seen in EC-projecting neurons. In contrast, BLA-projecting neurons showed no remodeling with stress, suggesting that this pathway may be particularly resilient against the effects of stress. No neurons showed stress-related changes in spine density, contrasting with reports that more dorsal areas of the mPFC show stress-induced decreases in spine density. Such region- and circuit-specificity in response to stress could contribute to the development of stress-related mental illnesses.
amygdala; chronic stress; connectivity; infralimbic cortex; neural plasticity; spine density
Molecular probes for selective identification of protein aggregates are important to advance our understanding of the molecular pathogenesis underlying cerebral amyloidoses. Here we report the chemical design of pentameric thiophene derivatives, denoted luminescent conjugated oligothiophenes (LCOs), which could be used for real-time visualization of cerebral protein aggregates in transgenic mouse models of neurodegenerative diseases by multiphoton microscopy. One of the LCOs, p-FTAA, showed conformation-dependent optical properties and could be utilized for ex vivo spectral assignment of distinct prion deposits from two mouse-adapted prion strains. p-FTAA also revealed staining of transient soluble pre-fibrillar non-thioflavinophilic Aβ- assemblies during in vitro fibrillation of Aβ peptides. In brain tissue samples, Aβ deposits and neurofibrillary tangles (NFTs) were readily identified by a strong fluorescence from p-FTAA and the LCO staining showed complete co-localization with conventional antibodies (6E10 and AT8), indicating that p-FTAA detects all the immuno-positive aggregated proteinaceous species in Alzheimer disease, but with significantly shorter imaging time (100 fold) compared to immunofluorescence. In addition, a patchy islet-like staining of individual Aβ plaque was unveiled by the anti-oligomer A11 antibody during co-staining with p-FTAA, suggesting that pre-fibrillar species are likely an intrinsic component of Aβ plaques in human brain. The major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, namely Aβ aggregates versus NFTs could also be distinguished due to distinct emission spectra from p-FTAA. Overall, we demonstrate that LCOs can be utilized as powerful practical research tools for studying protein aggregation diseases and facilitate the study of amyloid origin, evolution and maturation, Aβ−tau interactions and pathogenesis both ex vivo and in vivo.
One third of all stroke survivors develop post-stroke depression (PSD). Depressive symptoms adversely affect rehabilitation and significantly increase risk of death in the post-stroke period. One of the theoretical views on the determinants of PSD focuses on psychosocial factors like disability and social support. Others emphasize biologic mechanisms such as disruption of biogenic amine neurotransmission and release of proinflammatory cytokines. The “lesion location” perspective attempts to establish a relationship between localization of stroke and occurrence of depression, but empirical results remain contradictory. These divergences are partly related to the fact that neuroimaging methods, unlike neuropathology, are not able to assess precisely the full extent of stroke-affected areas and do not specify the different types of vascular lesions. We provide here an overview of the known phenomenological profile and current pathogenic hypotheses of PSD and present neuropathological data challenging the classic “single-stroke”-based neuroanatomical model of PSD. We suggest that vascular burden due to the chronic accumulation of small macrovascular and microvascular lesions may be a crucial determinant of the development and evolution of PSD.
Cerebral ischemia; Location; Macroinfarcts; Microvascular; Mood; Neuropathology
Small vessel pathology and microvascular lesions are no longer considered as minor players in the fields of cognitive impairment and mood regulation. Although frequently found in cognitively intact elders, both neuroimaging and neuropathological data revealed the negative impact on cognitive performances of their presence within neocortical association areas, thalamus and basal ganglia. Unlike cognition, the relationship between these lesions and mood dysregulation is still a matter of intense debate. Early studies focusing on the role of macroinfarct location in the occurrence of post-stroke depression (PSD) led to conflicting data. Later on, the concept of vascular depression proposed a deleterious effect of subcortical lacunes and deep white matter demyelination on mood regulation in elders who experienced the first depressive episode. More recently, the chronic accumulation of lacunes in thalamus, basal ganglia and deep white matter has been considered as a strong correlate of PSD. We provide here a critical overview of neuroimaging and neuropathological sets of evidence regarding the affective repercussions of vascular burden in the aging brain and discuss their conceptual and methodological limitations. Based on these observations, we propose that the accumulation of small vascular and microvascular lesions constitutes a common neuropathological platform for both cognitive decline and depressive episodes in old age.
Vascular burden; Cognitive impairment; Aging; Mood; Microvascular pathology; Lacunes
Findings of white matter pathology as indicated by diffusion tensor anisotropy values in schizophrenia are well established, but the differences in this measure between the onset of the disease and the chronic state are not well known. To investigate the differences between these states in the progression of the disease of schizophrenia we acquired 1.5 T diffusion tensor anisotropy images on 35 adult patients with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, 23 adolescents having their first psychotic episode, and age and sex matched controls (33 adults and 15 adolescents). Regions of interest in major cortical white matter tracts chosen as salient to the prefrontal executive deficit in schizophrenia were assessed using stereotaxic coordinates from the Talairach and Tournoux atlas. Regions of each tract along anterior-posterior and/or inferior-superior directions in both hemispheres were evaluated in multiway ANOVA. Tracts between the frontal lobe and other brain regions, but not temporal, occipital and interhemispheric tracts, showed a differential aging pattern in normals and patients indicating that the white matter pathology in these regions is not stable between the onset and the chronic state in schizophrenia. This suggests that tracts involved in the connectivity of the temporal lobe white matter deficits were already well in place in adolescent patients, while frontal lobe pathology continues to develop from adolescence to adulthood.
Neuronal circuitry relies to a large extent on the presence of functional myelin produced in the brain by oligodendrocytes. Schizophrenia has been proposed to arise partly from altered brain connectivity. Brain imaging and neuropathologic studies have revealed changes in white matter and reduction in myelin content in patients with schizophrenia. In particular, alterations in the directionality and alignment of axons have been documented in schizophrenia. Moreover, the expression levels of several myelin-related genes are decreased in postmortem brains obtained from patients with schizophrenia. These findings have led to the formulation of the oligodendrocyte/myelin dysfunction hypothesis of schizophrenia. In this review, we present a brief overview of the neuropathologic findings obtained on white matter and oligodendrocyte status observed in schizophrenia patients, and relate these changes to the processes of brain maturation and myelination. We also review recent data on oligodendrocyte/myelin genes, and present some recent mouse models of myelin deficiencies. The use of transgenic and mutant animal models offers a unique opportunity to analyze oligodendrocyte and neuronal changes that may have a clinical impact. Lastly, we present some recent morphological findings supporting possible causal involvement of white and grey matter abnormalities, in the aim of determining the morphologic characteristics of the circuits whose alteration leads to the cortical dysfunction that possibly underlies the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.
myelin; myelin-related genes; development; anterior cingulate cortex; cingulum bundle
Mutations in presenilin-1 (PS1) and presenilin-2 (PS2) cause familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). Presenilins influence multiple molecular pathways and are best known for their role in the γ-secretase cleavage of type I transmembrane proteins including the amyloid precursor protein (APP). PS1 and PS2 FAD mutant transgenic mice have been generated using a variety of promoters. PS1-associated FAD mutations have also been knocked into the endogenous mouse gene. PS FAD mutant mice consistently show elevations of Aβ42 with little if any effect on Aβ40. When crossed with plaque forming APP FAD mutant lines, the PS1 FAD mutants cause earlier and more extensive plaque deposition. Although single transgenic PS1 or PS2 mice do not form plaques, they exhibit a number of pathological features including age-related neuronal and synaptic loss as well as vascular pathology. They also exhibit increased susceptibility to excitotoxic injury most likely on the basis of exaggerated calcium release from the endoplasmic reticulum. Electrophysiologically long-term potentiation in the hippocampus is increased in young PS1 FAD mutant mice but this effect appears to be lost with aging. In most studies neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus is also impaired by PS1 FAD mutants. Mice in which PS1 has been conditionally knocked out in adult forebrain on a PS2 null background (PS1/2 cDKO) develop a striking neurodegeneration that mimics AD neuropathology in being associated with neuronal and synaptic loss, astrogliosis and hyperphosphorylation of tau, although it is not accompanied by plaque deposits. The relevance of PS transgenic mice as models of AD is discussed.
Alzheimer’s disease; Familial Alzheimer’s disease; Hippocampal neurogenesis; Presenilin-1; Presenilin-2; Transgenic mice
Hypercholesterolemia causes atherosclerosis in medium to large sized arteries. Cholesterol is less known for affecting the microvasculature and has not been previously reported to induce microvascular pathology in the central nervous system (CNS).
Mice with a null mutation in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene as well as C57BL/6J mice fed a high cholesterol diet developed a distinct microvascular pathology in the CNS that differs from cholesterol-induced atherosclerotic disease. Microvessel diameter was increased but microvascular density and length were not consistently affected. Degenerative changes and thickened vascular basement membranes were present ultrastructurally. The observed pathology shares features with the microvascular pathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD), including the presence of string-like vessels. Brain apolipoprotein E levels which have been previously found to be elevated in LDLR-/- mice were also increased in C57BL/6J mice fed a high cholesterol diet.
In addition to its effects as an inducer of atherosclerosis in medium to large sized arteries, hypercholesterolemia also induces a microvascular pathology in the CNS that shares features of the vascular pathology found in AD. These observations suggest that high cholesterol may induce microvascular disease in a range of CNS disorders including AD.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system (CNS). Recently, an increased interest in the role diet plays in the pathology of AD has resulted in a focus on the detrimental effects of diets high in cholesterol and fat and the beneficial effects of caloric restriction. The current study examines how dietary composition modulates cerebral amyloidosis and neuronal integrity in the TgCRND8 mouse model of AD.
From 4 wks until 18 wks of age, male and female TgCRND8 mice were maintained on one of four diets: (1) reference (regular) commercial chow; (2) high fat/low carbohydrate custom chow (60 kcal% fat/30 kcal% protein/10 kcal% carbohydrate); (3) high protein/low carbohydrate custom chow (60 kcal% protein/30 kcal% fat/10 kcal% carbohydrate); or (4) high carbohydrate/low fat custom chow (60 kcal% carbohydrate/30 kcal% protein/10 kcal% fat). At age 18 wks, mice were sacrificed, and brains studied for (a) wet weight; (b) solubilizable Aβ content by ELISA; (c) amyloid plaque burden; (d) stereologic analysis of selected hippocampal subregions.
Animals receiving a high fat diet showed increased brain levels of solubilizable Aβ, although we detected no effect on plaque burden. Unexpectedly, brains of mice fed a high protein/low carbohydrate diet were 5% lower in weight than brains from all other mice. In an effort to identify regions that might link loss of brain mass to cognitive function, we studied neuronal density and volume in hippocampal subregions. Neuronal density and volume in the hippocampal CA3 region of TgCRND8 mice tended to be lower in TgCRND8 mice receiving the high protein/low carbohydrate diet than in those receiving the regular chow. Neuronal density and volume were preserved in CA1 and in the dentate gyrus.
Dissociation of Aβ changes from brain mass changes raises the possibility that diet plays a role not only in modulating amyloidosis but also in modulating neuronal vulnerability. However, in the absence of a study of the effects of a high protein/low carbohydrate diet on nontransgenic mice, one cannot be certain how much, if any, of the loss of brain mass exhibited by high protein/low carbohydrate diet-fed TgCRND8 mice was due to an interaction between cerebral amyloidosis and diet. Given the recent evidence that certain factors favor the maintenance of cognitive function in the face of substantial structural neuropathology, we propose that there might also exist factors that sensitize brain neurons to some forms of neurotoxicity, including, perhaps, amyloid neurotoxicity. Identification of these factors could help reconcile the poor clinicopathological correlation between cognitive status and structural neuropathology, including amyloid pathology.