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  • Hippocampal acetylcholine depletion has no effect on anxiety, spatial novelty preference, or differential reward for low rates of responding (DRL) performance in rats.

    3 July 2018

    We investigated the role of the septo-hippocampal cholinergic projection in anxiety, spatial novelty preference, and differential reward for low rates of responding (DRL) performance. Cholinergic neurons of the rat medial septum (MS) and the vertical limb of the diagonal band of Broca (VDB) were lesioned using the selective immunotoxin, 192 IgG-saporin. Rats were then tested on several behavioral tests previously shown to be sensitive to either (a) hippocampal lesions or (b) nonselective MS/VDB lesions which target both cholinergic and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic projections, or both. Saporin lesions substantially reduced hippocampal cholinergic innervation, resulting in an absence of acetyl cholinesterase staining and markedly reduced choline acetyltransferase activity (mean reduction: 80 ± 5%; range: 50-97%). However, the saporin-lesioned rats did not differ from control rats in any of the behavioral tests. Thus we found no evidence from these lesion studies that the septo-hippocampal cholinergic projection plays an essential role in anxiety, spatial novelty preference, or DRL.

  • SERT and uncertainty: serotonin transporter expression influences information processing biases for ambiguous aversive cues in mice.

    3 July 2018

    The long allele variant of the serotonin transporter (SERT, 5-HTT) gene-linked polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR) is associated with higher levels of 5-HTT expression and reduced risk of developing affective disorders. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this protective effect. One hypothesis is that 5-HTT expression influences aversive information processing, with reduced negative cognitive bias present in those with higher 5-HTT expression. Here we investigated this hypothesis using genetically-modified mice and a novel aversive learning paradigm. Mice with high levels of 5-HTT expression (5-HTT over-expressing, 5-HTTOE mice) and wild-type mice were trained to discriminate between three distinct auditory cues: one cue predicted footshock on all trials (CS+); a second cue predicted the absence of footshock (CS-); and a third cue predicted footshock on 20% of trials (CS20%), and was therefore ambiguous. Wild-type mice exhibited equivalently high levels of fear to the CS+ and CS20% and minimal fear to the CS-. In contrast, 5-HTTOE mice exhibited high levels of fear to the CS+ but minimal fear to the CS- and the CS20%. This selective reduction in fear to ambiguous aversive cues suggests that increased 5-HTT expression reduces negative cognitive bias for stimuli with uncertain outcomes.

  • Worsening cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative pathology progressively increase risk for delirium.

    3 July 2018

    BACKGROUND: Delirium is a profound neuropsychiatric disturbance precipitated by acute illness. Although dementia is the major risk factor this has typically been considered a binary quantity (i.e., cognitively impaired versus cognitively normal) with respect to delirium risk. We used humans and mice to address the hypothesis that the severity of underlying neurodegenerative changes and/or cognitive impairment progressively alters delirium risk. METHODS: Humans in a population-based longitudinal study, Vantaa 85+, were followed for incident delirium. Odds for reporting delirium at follow-up (outcome) were modeled using random-effects logistic regression, where prior cognitive impairment measured by Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) (exposure) was considered. To address whether underlying neurodegenerative pathology increased susceptibility to acute cognitive change, mice at three stages of neurodegenerative disease progression (ME7 model of neurodegeneration: controls, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks) were assessed for acute cognitive dysfunction upon systemic inflammation induced by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS; 100 μg/kg). Synaptic and axonal correlates of susceptibility to acute dysfunction were assessed using immunohistochemistry. RESULTS: In the Vantaa cohort, 465 persons (88.4 ± 2.8 years) completed MMSE at baseline. For every MMSE point lost, risk of incident delirium increased by 5% (p = 0.02). LPS precipitated severe and fluctuating cognitive deficits in 16-week ME7 mice but lower incidence or no deficits in 12-week ME7 and controls, respectively. This was associated with progressive thalamic synaptic loss and axonal pathology. CONCLUSION: A human population-based cohort with graded severity of existing cognitive impairment and a mouse model with progressing neurodegeneration both indicate that the risk of delirium increases with greater severity of pre-existing cognitive impairment and neuropathology.

  • Prebiotic administration normalizes lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced anxiety and cortical 5-HT2A receptor and IL1-β levels in male mice.

    3 July 2018

    The manipulation of the enteric microbiota with specific prebiotics and probiotics, has been shown to reduce the host's inflammatory response, alter brain chemistry, and modulate anxiety behaviour in both rodents and humans. However, the neuro-immune and behavioural effects of prebiotics on sickness behaviour have not been explored. Here, adult male CD1 mice were fed with a specific mix of non-digestible galacto-oligosaccharides (Bimuno®, BGOS) for 3 weeks, before receiving a single injection of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), which induces sickness behaviour and anxiety. Locomotor and marble burying activities were assessed 4h after LPS injection, and after 24h, anxiety in the light-dark box was assessed. Cytokine expression, and key components of the serotonergic (5-Hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) and glutamatergic system were evaluated in the frontal cortex to determine the impact of BGOS administration at a molecular level. BGOS-fed mice were less anxious in the light-dark box compared to controls 24h after the LPS injection. Elevated cortical IL-1β concentrations in control mice 28 h after LPS were not observed in BGOS-fed animals. This significant BGOS×LPS interaction was also observed for 5HT2A receptors, but not for 5HT1A receptors, 5HT, 5HIAA, NMDA receptor subunits, or other cytokines. The intake of BGOS did not influence LPS-mediated reductions in marble burying behaviour, and its effect on locomotor activity was equivocal. Together, our data show that the prebiotic BGOS has an anxiolytic effect, which may be related to the modulation of cortical IL-1β and 5-HT2A receptor expression. Our data suggest a potential role for prebiotics in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders where anxiety and neuroinflammation are prominent clinical features.

  • Left-right dissociation of hippocampal memory processes in mice.

    3 July 2018

    Left-right asymmetries have likely evolved to make optimal use of bilaterian nervous systems; however, little is known about the synaptic and circuit mechanisms that support divergence of function between equivalent structures in each hemisphere. Here we examined whether lateralized hippocampal memory processing is present in mice, where hemispheric asymmetry at the CA3-CA1 pyramidal neuron synapse has recently been demonstrated, with different spine morphology, glutamate receptor content, and synaptic plasticity, depending on whether afferents originate in the left or right CA3. To address this question, we used optogenetics to acutely silence CA3 pyramidal neurons in either the left or right dorsal hippocampus while mice performed hippocampus-dependent memory tasks. We found that unilateral silencing of either the left or right CA3 was sufficient to impair short-term memory. However, a striking asymmetry emerged in long-term memory, wherein only left CA3 silencing impaired performance on an associative spatial long-term memory task, whereas right CA3 silencing had no effect. To explore whether synaptic properties intrinsic to the hippocampus might contribute to this left-right behavioral asymmetry, we investigated the expression of hippocampal long-term potentiation. Following the induction of long-term potentiation by high-frequency electrical stimulation, synapses between CA3 and CA1 pyramidal neurons were strengthened only when presynaptic input originated in the left CA3, confirming an asymmetry in synaptic properties. The dissociation of hippocampal long-term memory function between hemispheres suggests that memory is routed via distinct left-right pathways within the mouse hippocampus, and provides a promising approach to help elucidate the synaptic basis of long-term memory.

  • Control of Amygdala Circuits by 5-HT Neurons via 5-HT and Glutamate Cotransmission.

    2 July 2018

    The serotonin (5-HT) system and the amygdala are key regulators of emotional behavior. Several lines of evidence suggest that 5-HT transmission in the amygdala is implicated in the susceptibility and drug treatment of mood disorders. Therefore, elucidating the physiological mechanisms through which midbrain 5-HT neurons modulate amygdala circuits could be pivotal in understanding emotional regulation in health and disease. To shed light on these mechanisms, we performed patch-clamp recordings from basal amygdala (BA) neurons in brain slices from mice with channelrhodopsin genetically targeted to 5-HT neurons. Optical stimulation of 5-HT terminals at low frequencies (≤1 Hz) evoked a short-latency excitation of BA interneurons (INs) that was depressed at higher frequencies. Pharmacological analysis revealed that this effect was mediated by glutamate and not 5-HT because it was abolished by ionotropic glutamate receptor antagonists. Optical stimulation of 5-HT terminals at higher frequencies (10-20 Hz) evoked both slow excitation and slow inhibition of INs. These effects were mediated by 5-HT because they were blocked by antagonists of 5-HT2A and 5-HT1A receptors, respectively. These fast glutamate- and slow 5-HT-mediated responses often coexisted in the same neuron. Interestingly, fast-spiking and non-fast-spiking INs displayed differential modulation by glutamate and 5-HT. Furthermore, optical stimulation of 5-HT terminals did not evoke glutamate release onto BA principal neurons, but inhibited these cells directly via activation of 5-HT1A receptors and indirectly via enhanced GABA release. Collectively, these findings suggest that 5-HT neurons exert a frequency-dependent, cell-type-specific control over BA circuitry via 5-HT and glutamate co-release to inhibit the BA output.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The modulation of the amygdala by serotonin (5-HT) is important for emotional regulation and is implicated in the pathogenesis and treatment of affective disorders. Therefore, it is essential to determine the physiological mechanisms through which 5-HT neurons in the dorsal raphe nuclei modulate amygdala circuits. Here, we combined optogenetic, electrophysiological, and pharmacological approaches to study the effects of activation of 5-HT axons in the basal nucleus of the amygdala (BA). We found that 5-HT neurons co-release 5-HT and glutamate onto BA neurons in a cell-type-specific and frequency-dependent manner. Therefore, we suggest that theories on the contribution of 5-HT neurons to amygdala function should be revised to incorporate the concept of 5-HT/glutamate cotransmission.

  • Hippocampal NMDA receptors are important for behavioural inhibition but not for encoding associative spatial memories.

    3 July 2018

    The idea that an NMDA receptor (NMDAR)-dependent long-term potentiation-like process in the hippocampus is the neural substrate for associative spatial learning and memory has proved to be extremely popular and influential. However, we recently reported that mice lacking NMDARs in dentate gyrus and CA1 hippocampal subfields (GluN1(ΔDGCA1) mice) acquired the open field, spatial reference memory watermaze task as well as controls, a result that directly challenges this view. Here, we show that GluN1(ΔDGCA1) mice were not impaired during acquisition of a spatial discrimination watermaze task, during which mice had to choose between two visually identical beacons, based on extramaze spatial cues, when all trials started at locations equidistant between the two beacons. They were subsequently impaired on test trials starting from close to the decoy beacon, conducted post-acquisition. GluN1(ΔDGCA1) mice were also impaired during reversal of this spatial discrimination. Thus, contrary to the widely held belief, hippocampal NMDARs are not required for encoding associative, long-term spatial memories. Instead, hippocampal NMDARs, particularly in CA1, act as part of a comparator system to detect and resolve conflicts arising when two competing, behavioural response options are evoked concurrently, through activation of a behavioural inhibition system. These results have important implications for current theories of hippocampal function.

  • Aversive prediction error signals in the amygdala.

    3 July 2018

    Prediction error signals are fundamental to learning. Here, in mice, we show that aversive prediction signals are found in the hemodynamic responses and theta oscillations recorded from the basolateral amygdala. During fear conditioning, amygdala responses evoked by footshock progressively decreased, whereas responses evoked by the auditory cue that predicted footshock concomitantly increased. Unexpected footshock evoked larger amygdala responses than expected footshock. The magnitude of the amygdala response to the footshock predicted behavioral responses the following day. The omission of expected footshock led to a decrease below baseline in the amygdala response suggesting a negative aversive prediction error signal. Thus, in mice, amygdala activity conforms to temporal difference models of aversive learning.

  • LRRK2 BAC transgenic rats develop progressive, L-DOPA-responsive motor impairment, and deficits in dopamine circuit function.

    3 July 2018

    Mutations in leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) lead to late-onset, autosomal dominant Parkinson's disease, characterized by the degeneration of dopamine neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta, a deficit in dopamine neurotransmission and the development of motor and non-motor symptoms. The most prevalent Parkinson's disease LRRK2 mutations are located in the kinase (G2019S) and GTPase (R1441C) encoding domains of LRRK2. To better understand the sequence of events that lead to progressive neurophysiological deficits in vulnerable neurons and circuits in Parkinson's disease, we have generated LRRK2 bacterial artificial chromosome transgenic rats expressing either G2019S or R1441C mutant, or wild-type LRRK2, from the complete human LRRK2 genomic locus, including endogenous promoter and regulatory regions. Aged (18-21 months) G2019S and R1441C mutant transgenic rats exhibit L-DOPA-responsive motor dysfunction, impaired striatal dopamine release as determined by fast-scan cyclic voltammetry, and cognitive deficits. In addition, in vivo recordings of identified substantia nigra pars compacta dopamine neurons in R1441C LRRK2 transgenic rats reveal an age-dependent reduction in burst firing, which likely results in further reductions to striatal dopamine release. These alterations to dopamine circuit function occur in the absence of neurodegeneration or abnormal protein accumulation within the substantia nigra pars compacta, suggesting that nigrostriatal dopamine dysfunction precedes detectable protein aggregation and cell death in the development of Parkinson's disease. In conclusion, our longitudinal deep-phenotyping provides novel insights into how the genetic burden arising from human mutant LRRK2 manifests as early pathophysiological changes to dopamine circuit function and highlights a potential model for testing Parkinson's therapeutics.

  • Prodromal Parkinsonism and Neurodegenerative Risk Stratification in REM Sleep Behavior Disorder.

    8 August 2018

    Objectives: Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (RBD) is the most specific marker of prodromal alpha-synucleinopathies. We sought to delineate the baseline clinical characteristics of RBD and evaluate risk stratification models. Methods: Clinical assessments were performed in 171 RBD, 296 control, and 119 untreated Parkinson's (PD) participants. Putative risk measures were assessed as predictors of prodromal neurodegeneration, and Movement Disorders Society (MDS) criteria for prodromal PD were applied. Participants were screened for common leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2)/glucocerebrosidase gene (GBA) gene mutations. Results: Compared to controls, participants with RBD had higher rates of solvent exposure, head injury, smoking, obesity, and antidepressant use. GBA mutations were more common in RBD, but no LRRK2 mutations were found. RBD participants performed significantly worse than controls on Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS)-III, timed "get-up-and-go", Flamingo test, Sniffin Sticks, and cognitive tests and had worse measures of constipation, quality of life (QOL), and orthostatic hypotension. For all these measures except UPDRS-III, RBD and PD participants were equally impaired. Depression, anxiety, and apathy were worse in RBD compared to PD participants. Stratification of people with RBD according to antidepressant use, obesity, and age altered the odds ratio (OR) of hyposmia compared to controls from 3.4 to 45.5. 74% (95% confidence interval [CI] 66%, 80%) of RBD participants met the MDS criteria for probable prodromal Parkinson's compared to 0.3% (95% CI 0.009%, 2%) of controls. Conclusions: RBD are impaired across a range of clinical measures consistent with prodromal PD and suggestive of a more severe nonmotor subtype. Clinical risk stratification has the potential to select higher risk patients for neuroprotective interventions.