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Hippocampal BDNF mediates recovery from chronic stress-induced spatial reference memory deficits

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Chronic restraint stress impairs hippocampal-mediated spatial learning and memory, which improves following a post-stress recovery period. Here, we investigated whether brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein important for hippocampal

Chronic restraint stress impairs hippocampal-mediated spatial learning and memory, which improves following a post-stress recovery period. Here, we investigated whether brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein important for hippocampal function, would alter the recovery from chronic stress-induced spatial memory deficits. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were infused into the hippocampus with adeno- associated viral vectors containing the coding sequence for short interfering (si)RNA directed against BDNF or a scrambled sequence (Scr), with both containing the coding information for green fluorescent protein to aid in anatomical localization. Rats were then chronically restrained (wire mesh, 6h/d/21d) and assessed for spatial learning and memory using a radial arm water maze (RAWM) either immediately after stressor cessation (Str-Imm) or following a 21-day post-stress recovery period (Str-Rec). All groups learned the RAWM task similarly, but differed on the memory retention trial. Rats in the Str-Imm group, regardless of viral vector contents, committed more errors in the spatial reference memory domain than did non-stressed controls. Importantly, the typical improvement in spatial memory following recovery from chronic stress was blocked with the siRNA against BDNF, as Str-Rec-siRNA performed worse on the RAWM compared to the non-stressed controls or Str-Rec-Scr. These effects were specific for the reference memory domain as repeated entry errors that reflect spatial working memory were unaffected by stress condition or viral vector contents. These results demonstrate that hippocampal BDNF is necessary for the recovery from stress-induced hippocampal dependent spatial memory deficits in the reference memory domain.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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On the cognitive impact of endogenous and exogenous hormone exposures across the lifespan

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Women are exposed to numerous endogenous and exogenous hormones across the lifespan. In the last several decades, the prescription of novel hormonal contraceptives and hormone therapies (HTs) have resulted in

Women are exposed to numerous endogenous and exogenous hormones across the lifespan. In the last several decades, the prescription of novel hormonal contraceptives and hormone therapies (HTs) have resulted in aging women that have a unique hormone exposure history; little is known about the impact of these hormone exposures on short- and long- term brain health. The goal of my dissertation was to understand how lifetime hormone exposures shape the female cognitive phenotype using several innovative approaches, including a new human spatial working memory task, the human radial arm maze (HRAM), and several rodent menopause models with variants of clinically used hormone treatments. Using the HRAM (chapter 2) and established human neuropsychological tests, I determined males outperformed females with high endogenous or exogenous estrogen levels on visuospatial tasks and the spatial working memory HRAM (chapter 3). Evaluating the synthetic estrogen in contraceptives, ethinyl estradiol (EE), I found a high EE dose impaired spatial working memory in ovariectomized (Ovx) rats, medium and high EE doses reduced choline-acetyltransferace-immunoreactive neuron population estimates in the basal forebrain following Ovx (chapter 4), and low EE impaired spatial cognition in ovary-intact rats (chapter 5). Assessing the impact of several clinically-used HTs, I identified a window of opportunity around ovarian follicular depletion outside of which the HT conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) was detrimental to spatial memory (chapter 6), as well as therapeutic potentials for synthetic contraceptive hormones (chapter 9) and bioidentical estradiol (chapter 7) during and after the transition to menopause. Chapter 6 and 7 findings, that estradiol and Ovx benefitted cognition after the menopause transition, but CEE did not, are perhaps due to the negative impact of ovarian-produced, androstenedione-derived estrone; indeed, blocking androstenedione’s conversion to estrone prevented its cognitive impairments (chapter 8). Finally, I determined that EE combined with the popular progestin levonorgestrel benefited spatial memory during the transition to menopause, a profile not seen with estradiol, levonorgestrel, or EE alone (chapter 9). This work identifies several cognitively safe, and enhancing, hormonal treatment options at different time points throughout female aging, revealing promising avenues toward optimizing female health.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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Chronic unpredictable intermittent restraint stress disrupts hippocampal-dependent spatial memory in male, but not female rats

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The present series of studies examined whether a novel implementation of an

intermittent restraint (IR) chronic stress paradigm could be used to investigate hippocampal-dependent spatial ability in both sexes. In experiments

The present series of studies examined whether a novel implementation of an

intermittent restraint (IR) chronic stress paradigm could be used to investigate hippocampal-dependent spatial ability in both sexes. In experiments 1 and 2, Sprague- Dawley male rats were used to identify the optimal IR parameters to assess spatial ability. For IR, rats were restrained for 2 or 6hrs/day (IR2, IR6, respectively) for five days and then given two days off, a process that was repeated for three weeks and compared to rats restrained for 6hrs/d for each day (DR6) and non-stressed controls (CON). Spatial memory was tested on the radial arm water maze (RAWM), object placement (OP), novel object recognition (NOR) and Y-maze. The results for the first two experiments revealed that IR6, but not IR2, was effective in impairing spatial memory in male rats and that task order impacted performance. In experiment 3, an extended IR paradigm for six weeks was implemented before spatial memory testing commenced in male and female rats (IR- M, IR-F). Unexpectedly, an extended IR paradigm failed to impair spatial memory in either males or females, suggesting that when extended, the IR paradigm may have become predictable. In experiment 4, an unpredictable IR (UIR) paradigm was implemented, in which restraint duration (30 or 60-min) combined with orbital shaking, time of day, and the days off from UIR were varied. UIR impaired spatial memory in males, but not females. Together with other reports, these findings support the interpretation that chronic stress negatively impairs hippocampal-dependent function in males, but not females, and that females appear to be resilient to spatial memory deficits in the face of chronic stress.

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Date Created
  • 2019