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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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Improved Discrimination Between Tone and Context During Fear Extinction in Chronically Stressed Rats Provided with a Post-Stress Rest Period

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The goal of the present study was to investigate whether a rest period following the end of chronic stress would impact fear extinction. Past research has indicated that chronic

The goal of the present study was to investigate whether a rest period following the end of chronic stress would impact fear extinction. Past research has indicated that chronic stress leads to impairments in the learning and recall of fear conditioning extinction. Moreover, the effects of chronic stress can return to levels similar to controls when a post-stress “rest” period (i.e., undisturbed except for normal husbandry) is given prior to testing. Male rats underwent chronic restraint stress for 6hr/day/21days (STR-IMM). Some rats, underwent a post-stress rest period for 6- or 3-weeks after the end of stress (STR-R6, STR-R3). Control (CON) rats were unrestrained for the duration of the experiment. In Experiment 1, following the stress or rest manipulation, all rats were acclimated to conditioning and extinction contexts, fear conditioned with 3 tone-foot shock pairings, and then had two days of extinction training. All groups froze similarly to the tone across all training sessions. However, STR-R6/R3 froze less in the non-shock context than did STR-IMM or CON. During extinction training, STR-IMM showed high levels of freezing to the non-shock context, leading to a concern they may be generalizing across contexts. Consequently, a follow-up experiment tested for context generalization. In Experiment 2, STR-IMM rats underwent a generalization test in an environment that was either different or the same as the conditioning environment, using STR-R6 as a comparison. STR-IMM and STR-R6 showed similar relative levels of freezing to tone and context, regardless of their conditioning environment to reveal that STR-IMM did not generalize and instead, maybe expressing hypervigilance. Thus, the present study demonstrated the novel finding that a rest period from chronic stress can lead to reduced fear responsiveness in a non-shock environment.

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  • 2018

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Age related changes in cognition and brain: a focus on progestogens

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Cognitive function declines with normal age and disease states, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Loss of ovarian hormones at menopause has been shown to exacerbate age-related memory decline and may

Cognitive function declines with normal age and disease states, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Loss of ovarian hormones at menopause has been shown to exacerbate age-related memory decline and may be related to the increased risk of AD in women versus men. Some studies show that hormone therapy (HT) can have beneficial effects on cognition in normal aging and AD, but increasing evidence suggests that the most commonly used HT formulation is not ideal. Work in this dissertation used the surgically menopausal rat to evaluate the cognitive effects and mechanisms of progestogens proscribed to women. I also translated these questions to the clinic, evaluating whether history of HT use impacts hippocampal and entorhinal cortex volumes assessed via imaging, and cognition, in menopausal women. Further, this dissertation investigates how sex impacts responsiveness to dietary interventions in a mouse model of AD. Results indicate that the most commonly used progestogen component of HT, medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), impairs cognition in the middle-aged and aged surgically menopausal rat. Further, MPA is the sole hormone component of the contraceptive Depo Provera, and my research indicates that MPA administered to young-adult rats leads to long lasting cognitive impairments, evident at middle age. Natural progesterone has been gaining increasing popularity as an alternate option to MPA for HT; however, my findings suggest that progesterone also impairs cognition in the middle-aged and aged surgically menopausal rat, and that the mechanism may be through increased GABAergic activation. This dissertation identified two less commonly used progestogens, norethindrone acetate and levonorgestrel, as potential HTs that could improve cognition in the surgically menopausal rat. Parameters guiding divergent effects on cognition were discovered. In women, prior HT use was associated with larger hippocampal and entorhinal cortex volumes, as well as a modest verbal memory enhancement. Finally, in a model of AD, sex impacts responsiveness to a dietary cognitive intervention, with benefits seen in male, but not female, transgenic mice. These findings have clinical implications, especially since women are at higher risk for AD diagnosis. Together, it is my hope that this information adds to the overarching goal of optimizing cognitive aging in women.

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  • 2012

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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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  • 2019

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Chronic Stress Has Lasting Influences on Fear Extinction Cued Discrimination Early in Extinction That is Mediated by the Infralimbic Cortex

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized by intrusive memories from a traumatic event. Current therapies rarely lead to complete remission. PTSD can be modeled in rodents using chronic stress (creating

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is characterized by intrusive memories from a traumatic event. Current therapies rarely lead to complete remission. PTSD can be modeled in rodents using chronic stress (creating vulnerable phenotype) combined with fear conditioning (modeling a traumatic experience), resulting in attenuated extinction learning and impaired recall of extinction. Studies typically investigate cognition soon after chronic stress ends; however, as days and weeks pass (“rest” period) some cognitive functions may improve compared to soon after stress. Whether a rest period between chronic stress and fear conditioning/extinction would lead to improvements is unclear. In Chapter 2, male rats were chronically stressed by restraint (6hr/d/21d), a reliable method to produce cognitive changes, or assigned to a non-stressed control group (CON). After chronic stress ended, fear conditioning occurred within a day (STR-IMM), or after three (STR-R3) or six weeks (STR-R6). During the first three extinction trials, differences emerged in fear to the non-shock context: STR-R3/R6 showed significantly less fear to the context than did STR-IMM or CON. Differences were unlikely attributable to generalization or to second-order conditioning. Therefore, a rest period following chronic stress may lead to improved fear extinction and discrimination between the conditioned stimulus and environment. In Chapter 3, the infralimbic cortex (IL) was investigated due to the IL’s importance in fear extinction. Rats were infused with chemogenetics to target IL glutamatergic neurons and then assigned to CON, STR-IMM or STR-R3. During the rest period of STR-R3 and the restraint for STR-IMM, the IL was inhibited using CNO (1mg/kg BW, i.p., daily), which ended before behavioral testing. STR-R3 with IL inhibition failed to demonstrate a tone-shock association as spontaneous recovery was not observed. CON with IL inhibition behaved somewhat like STR-IMM; freezing to the extinction context was enhanced. Consequently, inhibiting IL function during the rest period following chronic stress was particularly disruptive for learning in STR-R3, impaired freezing to a safe context for CON, and had no effect in STR-IMM. These studies show that time since the end of chronic stress (recently ended or with a delay) can interact with IL functioning to modify fear learning and response.

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Date Created
  • 2020