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In vivo calcium imaging reveals that cortisol treatment reduces the number of place cells in Thy1-GCaMP6f transgenic mice.


Authors: Tim Indersmitten, Michael J. Schachter, Stephanie Young, Natalie Welty, Stephani Otte, Jonathan J. Nassi, Timothy Lovenberg, Pascal Bonaventure, Ryan M. Wyatt
Publication: Frontiers in Neuroscience
Date: March 1, 2019
Link to article: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2019.00176/full?__hssc=91116…


The hippocampus, a structure essential for spatial navigation and memory undergoes anatomical and functional changes during chronic stress. Here, we investigate the effects of chronic stress on the ability of place cells to encode the neural representation of a linear track. To model physiological conditions of chronic stress on hippocampal function, transgenic mice expressing the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP6f in CA1 pyramidal neurons were chronically administered with 40 mg/ml of cortisol for 8 weeks. Cortisol-treated mice exhibited symptoms typically observed during chronic stress, including diminished reward seeking behavior and reduced adrenal gland and spleen weights. In vivo imaging of hippocampal cellular activity during linear track running behavior revealed a reduced number of cells that could be recruited to encode spatial position, despite an unchanged overall number of active cells, in cortisol-treated mice. The properties of the remaining place cells that could be recruited to encode spatial information, however, was unperturbed. Bayesian decoders trained to estimate the mouse’s position on the track using single neuron activity data demonstrated reduced performance in a cue richness-dependent fashion in cortisol-treated animals. The performance of decoders utilizing data from the entire neuronal ensemble was unaffected by cortisol treatment. Finally, to test the hypothesis that an antidepressant drug could prevent the effects of cortisol, we orally administered a group of mice with 10 mg/kg citalopram during cortisol administration. Citalopram prevented the cortisol induced decrease in single-neuron decoder performance but failed to significantly prevent anhedonia and the cortisol-induced reduction in the proportion place cells. The dysfunction observed at the single-neuron level indicates that chronic stress may impair the ability of the hippocampus to encode individual neural representations of the mouse’s spatial position, a function pivotal to forming an accurate navigational map of the mouse’s external environment; however, the hippocampal ensemble as a whole is resilient to any cortisol-induced insults to single neuronal place cell function on the linear track.

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