Early-life trauma alters hippocampal function during an episodic memory task in adulthood

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Department of Psychology
Purdue University
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Early life trauma is a risk factor for a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia (SZ) and depression. Animal models have played a critical role in understanding how early-life trauma may evoke changes in behavior and biomarkers of altered brain function that resemble these neuropsychiatric disorders. However, since SZ is a complex condition with multifactorial etiology, it is difficult to model the breadth of this condition in a single animal model. Considering this, it is necessary to develop rodent models with clearly defined subsets of pathologies observed in the human condition and their developmental trajectory. Episodic memory is among the cognitive deficits observed in SZ. Theta (6-10 Hz), low gamma (30-50 Hz), and high gamma (50-100 Hz) frequencies in the hippocampus (HC) are critical for encoding and retrieval of memory. Also, theta-gamma comodulation, defined as correlated fluctuations in power between these frequencies, may provide a mechanism for coding episodic sequences by coordinating neuronal activity at timescales required for memory encoding and retrieval. Given that patients with SZ have impaired recognition memory, the overall objectives of these experiments were to assess local field potential (LFP) recordings in the theta and gamma range from the dorsal HC during a recognition memory task in an animal model that exhibits a subclass of symptoms that resemble SZ. In Aim 1, LFPs were recorded from the HC to assess theta and gamma power to determine whether rats that were maternally deprived (MD) for 24-hrs on postnatal day (PND 9), had altered theta and high/low gamma power compared to sham rats during novel object recognition (NOR). Brain activity was recorded while animals underwent NOR on PND 70, 74, and 78. In Aim 2, the effects of theta-low gamma comodulation and theta-high gamma comodulation in the HC were assessed during NOR between sham and MD animals. Furthermore, measures of maternal care were taken to assess if high or low licking/grooming behaviors influenced recognition memory. It was hypothesized that MD animals would have impaired recognition memory and lower theta and low/high gamma power during interaction with both objects compared to sham animals. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that sham animals would have higher theta-gamma comodulation during novel object exploration compared to the familiar object, which would be higher than the MD group. Measures of weight, locomotor activity, and thigmotaxis were also assessed. MD animals were impaired on the NOR task and had no change in theta or low/high gamma power or theta-gamma comodulation when interacting with the novel or familiar object during trials where they performed unsuccessfully or successfully. However, higher theta and gamma power and theta-gamma comodulation was observed in sham animals depending on the object they were exploring or whether it was a successful or unsuccessful trial. These data indicate altered functioning of the HC following MD and a dissociation between brain activity and behavior in this group, providing support that early life trauma can induce cognitive and physiological impairments that are long-lasting. In conclusion, these data identify a model of early life stress with a translational potential, given that there are points of contact between human studies and the MD model. Furthermore, these data provide a set of tools that could be used to further explore how these altered neural mechanisms may influence cognition and behavior.

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
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