The loss of presynaptic markers is thought to represent a strong pathologic correlate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Spinophilin is a postsynaptic marker mainly located to the heads of dendritic spines. We assessed total numbers of spinophilin-immunoreactive puncta in the CA1 and CA3 fields of hippocampus and area 9 in 18 elderly individuals with various degrees of cognitive decline. The decrease in spinophilin-immunoreactivity was significantly related to both Braak neurofibrillary tangle (NFT) staging and clinical severity but not Aβ deposition staging. The total number of spinophilin-immunoreactive puncta in CA1 field and area 9 were significantly related to MMSE scores and predicted 23.5% and 61.9% of its variability. The relationship between total number of spinophilin-immunoreactive puncta in CA1 field and MMSE scores did not persist when adjusting for Braak NFT staging. In contrast, the total number of spinophilin-immunoreactive puncta in area 9 was still significantly related to the cognitive outcome explaining an extra 9.6% of MMSE and 25.6% of the Clinical Dementia Rating scores variability. Our data suggest that neocortical dendritic spine loss is an independent parameter to consider in AD clinicopathologic correlations.
Alzheimer’s disease; cognition; synapses; tangles
While the brain vasculature can be imaged with many methods, immunohistochemistry has distinct advantages due to its simplicity and applicability to archival tissue. However, immunohistochemical staining of the murine brain vasculature in aldehyde fixed tissue has proven elusive and inconsistent using current protocols. Here we investigated whether antigen retrieval methods could improve vascular staining in the adult mouse brain. We found that pepsin digestion prior to immunostaining unmasked widespread collagen IV staining of the cerebrovasculature in the adult mouse brain. Pepsin treatment also unmasked widespread vascular staining with laminin, but only marginally improved isolectin B4 staining and did not enhance vascular staining with fibronectin, perlecan or CD146. Collagen IV immunoperoxidase staining was easily combined with cresyl violet counterstaining making it suitable for stereological analyses of both vascular and neuronal parameters in the same tissue section. This method should be widely applicable for labeling the brain vasculature of the mouse in aldehyde fixed tissue from both normal and pathological states.
adult; antigen retrieval; blood vessels; brain; collagen IV; immunohistochemistry; mouse; pepsin
Aging is associated with deficiencies in the prefrontal cortex, including working memory impairment, and compromised integrity of neuronal dendrites. Although protein kinase C (PKC) is implicated in structural plasticity, and overactivation of PKC results in working memory impairments in young animals, the role of PKC in prefrontal cortical impairments in the aged has not been examined. This study provides the first evidence that PKC activity is associated with prefrontal cortical dysfunction in aging. Pharmacological inhibition of PKC with chelerythrine rescued working memory impairments in aged rats and enhanced working memory in aged rhesus monkeys. Improvement correlated with age, with older monkeys demonstrating a greater degree of improvement following PKC inhibition. Furthermore, PKC activity within the prefrontal cortex was inversely correlated with the length of basal dendrites of prefrontal cortical neurons, as well as with working memory performance in aged rats. Together these findings indicate that PKC is dysregulated in aged animals and that PKC inhibitors may be useful in the treatment of cognitive deficits in the elderly.
prefrontal cortex; aging; working memory; protein kinase C; dendritic spines; chelerythrine; dendrites
We acquired diffusion tensor images on 33 normal adults aged 22–64 and 15 adolescents aged 14–21. We assessed relative anisotropy in stereotaxically located regions of interest in the internal capsule, corpus callosum, anterior thalamic radiations, frontal anterior fasciculus, fronto-occipital fasciculus, temporal lobe white matter, cingulum bundle, frontal inferior longitudinal fasciculus, frontal superior longitudinal fasciculus, and optic radiations. All of these structures except the optic radiations, corpus callosum, and frontal inferior longitudinal fasciculus exhibited differences in anisotropy between adolescents and adults. Areas with anisotropy increasing with age included the anterior limb of the internal capsule, superior levels of the frontal superior longitudinal fasciculus and the inferior portion of the temporal white matter. Areas with anisotropy decreasing with age included the posterior limb of the internal capsule, anterior thalamic radiations, fronto-occipital fasciculus, anterior portion of the frontal anterior fasciculus, inferior portion of the frontal superior longitudinal fasciculus, cingulum bundle and superior portion of the temporal axis. Sex differences were found in the majority of areas but were most marked in the cingulum bundle and internal capsule. These results suggest continuing white matter development between adolescence and adulthood.
Age; White matter; Magnetic resonance imaging
Brain imaging genetic research involves a multitude of methods and spans many traditional levels of analysis. Given the vast permutations among several million common genetic variants with thousands of brain tissue voxels and a wide array of cognitive tasks that activate specific brain systems, we are prompted to develop specific hypotheses that synthesize converging evidence and state clear predictions about the anatomical sources, magnitude and direction (increases vs. decreases) of allele- and task-specific brain activity associations. To begin to develop a framework for shaping our imaging genetic hypotheses, we focus on previous results and the wider imaging genetic literature. Particular emphasis is placed on converging evidence that links system-level and biochemical studies with models of synaptic function. In shaping our own imaging genetic hypotheses on the development of Attention Networks, we review relevant literature on core models of synaptic physiology and development in the anterior cingulate cortex.
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.
primary motor cortex; handedness; interneuron; parvalbumin; brain evolution
Complex corticocancellous skeletal sites such as the vertebra or proximal femur are connected networks of bone capable of transferring mechanical loads. Characterizing these structures as networks may allow us to quantify the load transferring behavior of the emergent system as a function of the connected cortical and trabecular components. By defining the relationship between certain physical bone traits and mechanical load transfer pathways, a clearer picture of the genetic determinants of skeletal fragility can be developed. We tested the hypothesis that the measures provided by network percolation theory will reveal that different combinations of cortical, trabecular, and compositional traits lead to significantly different load transfer pathways within the vertebral bodies among inbred mouse strains. Gross morphologic, micro-architectural, and compositional traits of L5 vertebrae from 15 week old A/J (A), C57BL6/J (B6), and C3H/HeJ (C3H) inbred mice (n=10/strain) were determined using micro-computed tomography. Measures included total cross-sectional area, bone volume fraction, trabecular number, thickness, spacing, cortical area, and tissue mineral density. Two-dimensional coronal sections were converted to network graphs with the cortical shell considered as one highly connected node. Percolation parameters including correlation length (average number of connected nodes between superior and inferior surfaces), chemical length (minimum number of connected nodes between surfaces), and backbone mass (strut number) were measured. Analysis of the topology of the connected bone networks showed that A and B6 mice transfer load through trabecular pathways in the middle of the vertebral body in addition to the cortical shell. C3H mice transfer load primarily through the highly mineralized cortical shell. Thus, the measures provided by percolation theory provide a quantitative approach to study how different combinations of cortical and trabecular traits lead to mechanically functional structures. The data further emphasize the interdependent nature of these physical bone traits suggesting similar genetic variants may affect both trabecular and cortical bone. Therefore, developing a network approach to study corticocancellous architecture during growth should further our understanding of the biological basis of skeletal fragility and, thus, provide novel engineering approaches to studying the genetic basis of fracture risk.
Percolation theory; Inbred mouse strains; Vertebrae; Corticocancellous architecture; Trabecular network; Biomechanics
Structural changes of neurons in the brain during aging are complex and not well understood. Neurons have significant homeostatic control of essential brain functions, including synaptic excitability, gene expression, and metabolic regulation. Any deviations from the norm can have severe consequences as seen in aging and injury. In this review, we present some of the structural adaptations that neurons undergo throughout normal and pathological aging and discuss their effects on electrophysiological properties and cognition. During aging, it is evident that neurons undergo morphological changes such as a reduction in the complexity of dendrite arborization and dendritic length. Spine numbers are also decreased, and because spines are the major sites for excitatory synapses, changes in their numbers could reflect a change in synaptic densities. This idea has been supported by studies that demonstrate a decrease in the overall frequency of spontaneous glutamate receptor-mediated excitatory responses, as well as a decrease in the levels of α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionic acid and N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor expression. Other properties such as γ-aminobutyric acid A receptor-mediated inhibitory responses and action potential firing rates are both significantly increased with age. These findings suggest that age-related neuronal dysfunction, which must underlie observed decline in cognitive function, probably involves a host of other subtle changes within the cortex that could include alterations in receptors, loss of dendrites, and spines and myelin dystrophy, as well as the alterations in synaptic transmission. Together these multiple alterations in the brain may constitute the substrate for age-related loss of cognitive function.
Aging; Alzheimer’s disease; neuroscience; spatial complexity; electrophysiology; dendrites; spines
Synapses onto dendritic spines in the lateral amygdala formed by afferents from the auditory thalamus represent a site of plasticity in Pavlovian fear conditioning. Previous work has demonstrated that thalamic afferents synapse onto LA spines expressing glutamate receptor (GluR) subunits, but the GluR subunit distribution at the synapse and within the cytoplasm has not been characterized. Therefore, we performed a quantitative analysis for ∝-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole proprionate (AMPA) receptor subunits GluR2 and GluR3 and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunits NR1 and NR2B by combining anterograde labeling of thalamo-amygdala afferents with postembedding immunoelectron microscopy for the GluRs in adult rats. A high percentage of thalamo-amygdala spines was immunoreactive for GluR2 (80%), GluR3 (83%), and NR1 (83%), while a smaller proportion of spines expressed NR2B (59%). To compare across the various subunits, the cytoplasmic to synaptic ratios of GluRs were measured within thalamo-amygdala spines. Analyses revealed that the cytoplasmic pool of GluR2 receptors was twice as large compared to the GluR3, NR1 and NR2B subunits. Our data also show that in adult brain, the NR2B subunit is expressed in the majority of in thalamo-amygdala spines and that within these spines, the various GluRs are differentially distributed between synaptic and non-synaptic sites. The prevalence of the NR2B subunit in thalamo-amygdala spines provides morphological evidence supporting its role in the fear conditioning circuit while the differential distribution of the GluR subtypes may reflect distinct roles for their involvement in this circuitry and synaptic plasticity.
GluR2; GluR3; excitatory amino acids; immunogold; NR1; NR2B; postembedding; immunohistochemistry; tracing; electron microscopy
Evidence suggests that white matter integrity may play an underlying pathophysiological role in schizophrenia. N-acetylaspartate (NAA), as measured by Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS), is a neuronal marker and is decreased in white matter lesions and regions of axonal loss. It has also been found to be reduced in the prefrontal and temporal regions in patients with schizophrenia. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) allows one to measure the orientations of axonal tracts as well as the coherence of axonal bundles. DTI is thus sensitive to demyelination and other structural abnormalities. DTI has also shown abnormalities in these regions.
MRS and DTI were obtained on 42 healthy subjects and 40 subjects with schizophrenia. The data was analyzed using regions of interests in the Dorso-Lateral Prefrontal white matter, Medial Temporal white matter and Occipital white matter using both imaging modalities.
NAA was significantly reduced in the patient population in the Medial Temporal regions. DTI anisotropy indices were also reduced in the same Medial Temporal regions. NAA and DTI-anisotropy indices were also correlated in the left medial temporal region.
Our results implicate defects in the medial temporal white matter in patients with schizophrenia. Moreover, MRS and DTI are complementary modalities for the study of white matter disruptions in patients with schizophrenia.
A group of eminent cetacean researchers respond to headlines charging that dolphins might be "flippin' idiots". They examine behavioural, anatomical and evolutionary data to conclude that the large brain of cetaceans evolved to support complex cognitive abilities.