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Systemic inflammatory events often precipitate acute cognitive dysfunction in elderly and demented populations. Delirium is a highly prevalent neuropsychiatric syndrome that is characterized by acute inattention and cognitive dysfunction, for which prior dementia is the major predisposing factor and systemic inflammation is a frequent trigger. Inflammatory mechanisms of delirium remain unclear. We have modeled aspects of delirium during dementia by exploiting progressive neurodegeneration in the ME7 mouse model of prion disease and by superimposing systemic inflammation induced by the bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Here, we have used this model to demonstrate that the progression of underlying disease increases the incidence, severity, and duration of acute cognitive dysfunction. This increasing susceptibility is associated with increased CNS expression of cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 in microglia and perivascular macrophages. The COX-1-specific inhibitor SC-560 provided significant protection against LPS-induced cognitive deficits, and attenuated the disease-induced increase in hippocampal and thalamic prostaglandin E2, while the COX-2-specific inhibitor NS-398 was ineffective. SC-560 treatment did not alter levels of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-1β, tumor necrosis factor-α, IL-6, or C-X-C chemokine ligand 1 in blood or brain, but systemic IL-1RA blocked LPS-induced cognitive deficits, and systemic IL-1β was sufficient to induce similar deficits in the absence of LPS. Furthermore, the well tolerated COX inhibitor ibuprofen was protective against IL-1β-induced deficits. These data demonstrate that progressive microglial COX-1 expression and prostaglandin synthesis can underpin susceptibility to cognitive deficits, which can be triggered by systemic LPS-induced IL-1β. These data contribute to our understanding of how systemic inflammation and ongoing neurodegeneration interact to induce cognitive dysfunction and episodes of delirium.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of Neuroscience


Society for Neuroscience

Publication Date





15248 - 15258