Unpredictable chronic mild stress differentially impairs social and contextual discrimination learning in two inbred mouse strains.
ABSTRACT: Alterations in the social and cognitive domain are considered important indicators for increased disability in many stress-related disorders. Similar impairments have been observed in rodents chronically exposed to stress, mimicking potential endophenotypes of stress-related psychopathologies such as major depression disorder (MDD), anxiety, conduct disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Data from numerous studies suggest that deficient plasticity mechanisms in hippocampus (HC) and prefrontal cortex (PFC) might underlie these social and cognitive deficits. Specifically, stress-induced deficiencies in neural plasticity have been associated with a hypodopaminergic state and reduced neural plasticity persistence. Here we assessed the effects of unpredictable chronic mild stress (UCMS) on exploratory, social and cognitive behavior of females of two inbred mouse strains (C57BL/6J and DBA/2J) that differ in their dopaminergic profile. Exposure to chronic stress resulted in impaired circadian rhythmicity, sociability and social cognition in both inbred strains, but differentially affected activity patterns and contextual discrimination performance. These stress-induced behavioral impairments were accompanied by reduced expression levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the prefrontal cortex. The strain-specific cognitive impairment was coexistent with enhanced plasma corticosterone levels and reduced expression of genes related to dopamine signaling in hippocampus. These results underline the importance of assessing different strains with multiple test batteries to elucidate the neural and genetic basis of social and cognitive impairments related to chronic stress.
Project description:The methionine-folate cycle-dependent one-carbon metabolism is implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. Since schizophrenia is a developmental disorder, we examined the effects that perturbation of the one-carbon metabolism during gestation has on mice progeny. Pregnant mice were administered methionine equivalent to double their daily intake during the last week of gestation. Their progeny (MET mice) exhibited schizophrenia-like social deficits, cognitive impairments and elevated stereotypy, decreased neurogenesis and synaptic plasticity, and abnormally reduced local excitatory synaptic connections in CA1 neurons. Neural transcript expression of only one gene, encoding the Npas4 transcription factor, was >twofold altered (downregulated) in MET mice; strikingly, similar Npas4 downregulation occurred in the prefrontal cortex of human patients with schizophrenia. Finally, therapeutic actions of typical (haloperidol) and atypical (clozapine) antipsychotics in MET mice mimicked effects in human schizophrenia patients. Our data support the validity of MET mice as a model for schizophrenia, and uncover methionine metabolism as a potential preventive and/or therapeutic target.
Project description:During the early postnatal period, environmental influences play a pivotal role in shaping the development of the neocortex, including the prefrontal cortex (PFC) that is crucial for working memory and goal-directed actions. Exposure to stressful experiences during this critical period may disrupt the development of PFC pyramidal neurons and impair the wiring and function of related neural circuits. However, the molecular mechanisms of the impact of early-life stress on PFC development and function are not well understood. In this study, we found that repeated stress exposure during the first postnatal week hampered dendritic development in layers II/III and V pyramidal neurons in the dorsal agranular cingulate cortex (ACd) and prelimbic cortex (PL) of neonatal mice. The deleterious effects of early postnatal stress on structural plasticity persisted to adulthood only in ACd layer V pyramidal neurons. Most importantly, concurrent blockade of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 1 (CRF1) by systemic antalarmin administration (20 ?g/g of body weight) during early-life stress exposure prevented stress-induced apical dendritic retraction and spine loss in ACd layer V neurons and impairments in PFC-dependent cognitive tasks. Moreover, the magnitude of dendritic regression, especially the shrinkage of apical branches, of ACd layer V neurons predicted the degree of cognitive deficits in stressed mice. Our data highlight the region-specific effects of early postnatal stress on the structural plasticity of prefrontal pyramidal neurons, and suggest a critical role of CRF1 in modulating early-life stress-induced prefrontal abnormalities.
Project description:LPFC dysfunction is a well-established neural impairment in schizophrenia and is associated with worse symptoms. However, how LPFC activation influences symptoms is unclear. Previous findings in healthy individuals demonstrate that lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) activation during cognitive control of emotional information predicts mood and behavior in response to interpersonal conflict, thus impairments in these processes may contribute to symptom exacerbation in schizophrenia. We investigated whether schizophrenia participants show LPFC deficits during cognitive control of emotional information, and whether these LPFC deficits prospectively predict changes in mood and symptoms following real-world interpersonal conflict. During fMRI, 23 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder and 24 healthy controls completed the Multi-Source Interference Task superimposed on neutral and negative pictures. Afterwards, schizophrenia participants completed a 21-day online daily-diary in which they rated the extent to which they experienced mood and schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms, as well as the occurrence and response to interpersonal conflict. Schizophrenia participants had lower dorsal LPFC activity (BA9) during cognitive control of task-irrelevant negative emotional information. Within schizophrenia participants, DLPFC activity during cognitive control of emotional information predicted changes in positive and negative mood on days following highly distressing interpersonal conflicts. Results have implications for understanding the specific role of LPFC in response to social stress in schizophrenia, and suggest that treatments targeting LPFC-mediated cognitive control of emotion could promote adaptive response to social stress in schizophrenia.
Project description:Schizophrenia and autism both feature significant impairments in social cognition and social functioning, but the specificity and mechanisms of these deficits remain unknown. Recent research suggests that social cognitive deficits in both disorders may arise from dysfunctions in the neural systems that underlie social cognition. We explored the neural activation of discrete brain regions implicated in social cognitive and face processing in schizophrenia subgroups and autism spectrum disorders during complex social judgments of faces. Twelve individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), 12 paranoid individuals with schizophrenia (P-SCZ), 12 non-paranoid individuals with schizophrenia (NP-SCZ), and 12 non-clinical healthy controls participated in this cross sectional study. Neural activation, as indexed by blood oxygenation level dependent (BOLD) contrast, was measured in a priori regions of interest while individuals rated faces for trustworthiness. All groups showed significant activation of a social cognitive network including the amygdala, fusiform face area (FFA), superior temporal sulcus (STS), and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) while completing a task of complex social cognition (i.e. trustworthiness judgments). ASD and P-SCZ individuals showed significantly reduced neural activation in the right amygdala, FFA, and left VLPFC as compared to controls and in the left VLPFC as compared to NP-SCZ individuals during this task. These findings lend support to models hypothesizing well-defined neural substrates of social cognition and suggest a specific neural mechanism that may underlie social cognitive impairments in both autism and paranoid schizophrenia.
Project description:Impairments in certain cognitive processes (e.g., working memory) are typically most pronounced in schizophrenia (SZ), intermediate in bipolar disorder (BP) and least in major depressive disorder (MDD). Given that working memory depends, in part, on neural circuitry that includes pyramidal neurons in layer 3 (L3) and layer 5 (L5) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), we sought to determine if transcriptome alterations in these neurons were shared or distinctive for each diagnosis. Overall design: We collected brain specimens (n=76) with SZ (n=19; 6 had schizoaffective disorder), BP (n=19; all had bipolar 1 disorder) or MDD (n=19) and UC subjects (n=19) which were matched as tetrads for sex and as closely as possible for age. Each subject has 2 technique replicates.
Project description:Anxiety disorders often manifest in genetically susceptible individuals after psychosocial stress, but the mechanisms underlying these gene-environment interactions are largely unknown. We used the chronic social defeat stress (CSDS) mouse model to study resilience and susceptibility to chronic psychosocial stress. We identified a strong genetic background effect in CSDS-induced social avoidance (SA) using four inbred mouse strains: 69% of C57BL/6NCrl (B6), 23% of BALB/cAnNCrl, 19% of 129S2/SvPasCrl, and 5% of DBA/2NCrl (D2) mice were stress resilient. Furthermore, different inbred mouse strains responded differently to stress, suggesting they use distinct coping strategies. To identify biological pathways affected by CSDS, we used RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) of three brain regions of two strains, B6 and D2: medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), ventral hippocampus (vHPC), and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST). We discovered overrepresentation of oligodendrocyte (OLG)-related genes in the differentially expressed gene population. Because OLGs myelinate axons, we measured myelin thickness and found significant region and strain-specific differences. For example, in resilient D2 mice, mPFC axons had thinner myelin than controls, whereas susceptible B6 mice had thinner myelin than controls in the vHPC. Neither myelin-related gene expression in several other regions nor corpus callosum thickness differed between stressed and control animals. Our unbiased gene expression experiment suggests that myelin plasticity is a substantial response to chronic psychosocial stress, varies across brain regions, and is genetically controlled. Identification of genetic regulators of the myelin response will provide mechanistic insight into the molecular basis of stress-related diseases, such as anxiety disorders, a critical step in developing targeted therapy.
Project description:Social anhedonia (SA) is a debilitating characteristic of schizophrenia, a common feature in individuals at psychosis-risk, and a vulnerability for developing schizophrenia-spectrum disorders. Prior work (Hooker et al., 2014) revealed neural deficits in the ventral lateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) when processing positive social cues in a community sample of people with high SA. Lower VLPFC neural activity was related to more severe self-reported schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms as well as the exacerbation of symptoms after social stress. In the current study, psycho-physiological interaction (PPI) analysis was applied to further investigate the neural mechanisms mediated by the VLPFC during emotion processing. PPI analysis revealed that, compared to low SA controls, participants with high SA exhibited reduced connectivity between the VLPFC and the motor cortex, the inferior parietal and the posterior temporal regions when viewing socially positive (relative to neutral) emotions. Across all participants, VLPFC connectivity correlated with behavioral and self-reported measures of attentional control, emotion management, and reward processing. Our results suggest that impairments to the VLPFC mediated neural circuitry underlie the cognitive and emotional deficits associated with social anhedonia, and may serve as neural targets for prevention and treatment of schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.
Project description:Music is a potent source for eliciting emotions, but not everybody experience emotions in the same way. Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show difficulties with social and emotional cognition. Impairments in emotion recognition are widely studied in ASD, and have been associated with atypical brain activation in response to emotional expressions in faces and speech. Whether these impairments and atypical brain responses generalize to other domains, such as emotional processing of music, is less clear. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated neural correlates of emotion recognition in music in high-functioning adults with ASD and neurotypical adults. Both groups engaged similar neural networks during processing of emotional music, and individuals with ASD rated emotional music comparable to the group of neurotypical individuals. However, in the ASD group, increased activity in response to happy compared to sad music was observed in dorsolateral prefrontal regions and in the rolandic operculum/insula, and we propose that this reflects increased cognitive processing and physiological arousal in response to emotional musical stimuli in this group.
Project description:Social support can relieve stress-induced behavioural outcomes, although its underlying molecular mechanisms are not fully understood. Here, we evaluated whether social interactions can prevent the restraint stress (RS)-induced cognitive impairments in male adolescent mice by utilizing molecular, cellular, and behavioural approaches. Acute RS in adolescent ICR mice impaired the working memory in the Y-maze test and memory consolidation and retrieval in the novel-object-recognition test (NORT). In addition, RS increased the extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2 phosphorylation (p-ERK1/2) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and corticosterone levels in the plasma. Interestingly, these outcomes were normalized by the presence of a conspecific animal (social support) during RS. RS also significantly upregulated the expression levels of known stress-relevant genes such as Egr1, Crh, and Crhr1, which were normalized by social support. Systemic injection of SL327 (an inhibitor of MEK1/2 that also blocks its downstream signal ERK1/2) prior to RS rescued the working memory impairments and the increased p-ERK1/2 while normalizing the expression of Egr1. Our results suggest that social support can alleviate the RS-induced cognitive impairments partly by modulating ERK1/2 phosphorylation and gene transcription in the PFC, and provide novel insights into the molecular mechanisms of the stress-buffering effects of social support.
Project description:Social cognitive impairments, including theory of mind (ToM), in schizophrenia more strongly predict functional outcomes than psychotic symptoms or nonsocial cognitive deficits. Despite their clinical importance, current medications do not improve these deficits. The current study investigated the hypothesis that oxytocin, a neuropeptide implicated in social behavior, would normalize neural abnormalities in schizophrenia during ToM, and that this normalization would correlate improvement in ToM behavior. In this cross-over, double-blind, and placebo-controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging study, a single dose of 40?IU of oxytocin was administered via nasal spray to male individuals with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder (schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, n?=?23) and healthy controls (n?=?25). Participants completed two ToM tasks in the scanner, the False Belief and Person Description tasks. During both tasks, on placebo day, schizophrenia was associated with reduced accuracy, hypo-activity in the right temporo-parietal junction (rTPJ; extended into the posterior superior temporal sulcus), and hypo-connectivity between the rTPJ and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) compared to healthy controls. Oxytocin, relative to placebo, significantly increased accuracy and rTPJ activation for ToM but not control stories in schizophrenia. Furthermore, a significant positive correlation was found between oxytocin induced increases in rTPJ activity and accuracy, indicating that oxytocin improved rTPJ activity in schizophrenia predicted behavioral improvement. Oxytocin also significantly improved connectivity between rTPJ and mPFC in schizophrenia. These findings suggest that rTPJ activity during ToM might be a potential neural target for the treatment of social cognitive deficits in schizophrenia.