Activation of prefrontal cortex and striatal regions in rats after shifting between rules in a T-maze
Prefrontal cortical and striatal areas have been identified by inactivation or lesion studies to be required for behavioral flexibility, including selecting and processing of different types of information. In order to identify these networks activated selectively during the acquisition of new reward contingency rules, rats were trained to discriminate orientations of bars presented in pseudorandom sequence on two video monitors positioned behind the goal sites on a T-maze with return arms. A second group already trained in the visual discrimination task learned to alternate left and right goal arm visits in the same maze while ignoring the visual cues still being presented. In each experimental group, once the rats reached criterion performance, the brains were prepared after a 90-min delay for later processing for c-fos immunohistochemistry. While both groups extinguished a prior strategy and acquired a new rule, they differed by the identity of the strategies and previous learning experience. Among the 28 forebrain areas examined, there were significant increases in the relative density of c-fos immunoreactive cell bodies after learning the second rule in the prefrontal cortex cingulate, the prelimbic and infralimbic areas, the dorsomedial striatum and the core of the nucleus accumbens, the ventral subiculum, and the central nucleus of the amygdala. These largely correspond to structures previously identified in inactivation studies, and their neurons fire synchronously during learning and strategy shifts. The data suggest that this dynamic network may underlie reward-based selection for action-a type of cognitive flexibility.
Locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons phase-lock to prefrontal and hippocampal infra-slow rhythms that synchronize to behavioral events
The locus coeruleus (LC) is the primary source of noradrenergic projections to the forebrain, and, in prefrontal cortex, is implicated in decision-making and executive function. LC neurons phase-lock to cortical infra-slow wave oscillations during sleep. Such infra-slow rhythms are rarely reported in awake states, despite their interest, since they correspond to the time scale of behavior. Thus, we investigated LC neuronal synchrony with infra-slow rhythms in awake rats performing an attentional set-shifting task. Local field potential (LFP) oscillation cycles in prefrontal cortex and hippocampus on the order of 0.4 Hz phase-locked to task events at crucial maze locations. Indeed, successive cycles of the infra-slow rhythms showed different wavelengths, as if they are periodic oscillations that can reset phase relative to salient events. Simultaneously recorded infra-slow rhythms in prefrontal cortex and hippocampus could show different cycle durations as well, suggesting independent control. Most LC neurons (including optogenetically identified noradrenergic neurons) recorded here were phase-locked to these infra-slow rhythms, as were hippocampal and prefrontal units recorded on the LFP probes. The infra-slow oscillations also phase-modulated gamma amplitude, linking these rhythms at the time scale of behavior to those coordinating neuronal synchrony. This would provide a potential mechanism where noradrenaline, released by LC neurons in concert with the infra-slow rhythm, would facilitate synchronization or reset of these brain networks, underlying behavioral adaptation.
Locus coeruleus: a new look at the blue spot
The locus coeruleus (LC), or 'blue spot', is a small nucleus located deep in the brainstem that provides the far-reaching noradrenergic neurotransmitter system of the brain. This phylogenetically conserved nucleus has proved relatively intractable to full characterization, despite more than 60 years of concerted efforts by investigators. Recently, an array of powerful new neuroscience tools have provided unprecedented access to this elusive nucleus, revealing new levels of organization and function. We are currently at the threshold of major discoveries regarding how this tiny brainstem structure exerts such varied and significant influences over brain function and behaviour. All LC neurons receive inputs related to autonomic arousal, but distinct subpopulations of those neurons can encode specific cognitive processes, presumably through more specific inputs from the forebrain areas. This ability, combined with specific patterns of innervation of target areas and heterogeneity in receptor distributions, suggests that activation of the LC has more specific influences on target networks than had initially been imagined.
Behavioral correlates of activity of optogenetically identified locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons in rats performing T-maze tasks
The nucleusLocus Coeruleus (LC) is the major source of forebrain norepinephrine. LC is implicated in arousal, response to novelty, andÂ cognitive functions, including decision-making and behavioral flexibility. One hypothesis is that LC activation promotes rapid shifts in cortical attentional networks following changes in environmental contingencies. Recent recordings further suggest LC is critical for mobilizing resources to deal with challenging situations. In the present study optogenetically identified LC neuronal activity was recorded in rats in a self-paced T-maze. Rats were trained on visual discrimination; then place-reward contingencies were instated. In the session where the animal shifted tasks the first time, the LC firing rate after visual cue onset increased significantly, even as the animal adhered to the previous rule. Firing rate also increased prior to crossing photodetectors that controlled stimulus onset and offset, and this was positively correlated with accelerations, consistent with a role in mobilizing effort. The results contribute to the growing evidence that the noradrenergic LC is essential for behavioral adaptation by promoting cognitive flexibility and mobilizing effort in face of changing environmental contingencies.
Abnormal Locus Coeruleus Sleep Activity Alters Sleep Signatures of Memory Consolidation and Impairs Place Cell Stability and Spatial Memory
Sleep is critical for proper memory consolidation. The locus coeruleus (LC) releases norepinephrine throughout the brain except when the LC falls silent throughout rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and prior to each non-REM (NREM) sleep spindle. We hypothesize that these transient LC silences allow the synaptic plasticity that is necessary to incorporate new information into pre-existing memory circuits. We found that spontaneous LC activity within sleep spindles triggers a decrease in spindle power. By optogenetically stimulating norepinephrine-containing LC neurons at 2Â Hz during sleep, we reduced sleep spindle occurrence, as well as NREM delta power and REM theta power, without causing arousals or changing sleep amounts. Stimulating the LC during sleep following a hippocampus-dependent food location learning task interfered with consolidation of newly learned locations and reconsolidation of previous locations, disrupting next-day place cell activity. The LC stimulation-induced reduction in NREM sleep spindles, delta, and REM theta and reduced ripple-spindle coupling all correlated with decreased hippocampus-dependent performance on the task. Thus, periods of LC silence during sleep following learning are essential for normal spindle generation, delta and theta power, and consolidation of spatial memories.
Sleep to Remember
Scientific investigation into the possible role of sleep in memory consolidation began with the early studies of Jenkins and Dallenbach (1924). Despite nearly a century of investigation with a waxing and waning of interest, the role of sleep in memory processing remains controversial and elusive. This review provides the historical background for current views and considers the relative contribution of two sleep states, rapid eye movement sleep and slow-wave sleep, to offline memory processing. The sequential hypothesis, until now largely ignored, is discussed, and recent literature supporting this view is reviewed.
Ripple-triggered stimulation of the locus coeruleus during post-learning sleep disrupts ripple/spindle coupling and impairs memory consolidation
Experience-induced replay of neuronal ensembles occurs during hippocampal high-frequency oscillations, or ripples. Post-learning increase in ripple rate is predictive of memory recall, while ripple disruption impairs learning. Ripples may thus present a fundamental component of a neurophysiological mechanism of memory consolidation. In addition to system-level local and cross-regional interactions, a consolidation mechanism involves stabilization of memory representations at the synaptic level. Synaptic plasticity within experience-activated neuronal networks is facilitated by noradrenaline release from the axon terminals of the locus coeruleus (LC). Here, to better understand interactions between the system and synaptic mechanisms underlying "off-line" consolidation, we examined the effects of ripple-associated LC activation on hippocampal and cortical activity and on spatial memory. Rats were trained on a radial maze; after each daily learning session neural activity was monitored for 1 h via implanted electrode arrays. Immediately following "on-line" detection of ripple, a brief train of electrical pulses (0.05 mA) was applied to LC. Low-frequency (20 Hz) stimulation had no effect on spatial learning, while higher-frequency (100 Hz) trains transiently blocked generation of ripple-associated cortical spindles and caused a reference memory deficit. Suppression of synchronous ripple/spindle events appears to interfere with hippocampal-cortical communication, thereby reducing the efficiency of "off-line" memory consolidation.
Locus coeruleus reports changes in environmental contingencies
The GANE (glutamate amplifies noradrenergic effects) model proposed by Mather et al. attempts to explain how norepinephrine enhances processing in highly activated brain regions. Careful perusal of the sparse data available from recording studies in animals reveals that noradrenergic neurons are excited mainly by any change in the environmentÂ -Â a salient, novel, or unexpected sensory stimulus or a change in behavioral contingencies. This begets the "network reset hypothesis" supporting the notion that norepinephrine promotes rapid cognitive and behavioral adaption.
Locus Coeruleus in time with the making of memories
Over the past decades studies of the neurobiology of memory were largely restricted to consideration of cellular and molecular events taking place immediately or shortly after training, the so-called consolidation period. More recent views have recognized that the memory process includes sensory processing, orienting of attention, retrieval, encoding, and subsequent consolidation. Advances in biotechnology are providing new tools to gain insights at every level of the memory process. New data from experiments employing high definition fMRI are confirming the role of the Locus Coeruleus (LC) noradrenergic system in reorienting of attention and in cognitive flexibility. Electrophysiological studies show new task-related activation of these neurons and learning-related off line activation and suggest a temporal relationship between LC spiking and cortical oscillations in the theta and gamma frequencies.
Sustained impairment of alpha2A-adrenergic autoreceptor signaling mediates neurochemical and behavioral sensitization to amphetamine
BACKGROUND: In rodents, drugs of abuse induce locomotor hyperactivity, and repeating injections enhance this response. This effect, called behavioral sensitization, persists months after the last administration. It has been shown that behavioral sensitization to amphetamine develops parallel to an increased release of norepinephrine (NE) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). METHODS: Rats and mice were repeatedly treated with amphetamine (1 or 2 mg/kg intraperitoneally, respectively) to obtain sensitized animals. The NE release in the PFC was measured by microdialysis in freely moving mice (n = 55). Activity of locus coeruleus (LC) noradrenergic neurons was determined in anaesthetized rats (n = 15) by in vivo extracellular electrophysiology. The alpha2A-adrenergic autoreceptor (alpha2A-AR) expression was assessed by autoradiography on brain slices, and Galphai proteins expression was measured by western blot analysis of LC punches. RESULTS: In sensitized rats LC neurons had a higher spontaneous firing rate, and clonidine-an alpha2A-adrenergic agonist-inhibited LC neuronal firing less efficiently than in control animals. Clonidine also induced lower levels of NE release in the PFC of sensitized mice. This desensitization was maintained by a lower density of Galphai1 and Galphai2 proteins in the LC of sensitized mice rather than weaker alpha2A-AR expression. Behavioral sensitization was facilitated by alpha2A-AR antagonist, efaroxan, during amphetamine injections and abolished by clonidine treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that noradrenergic inhibitory feedback is impaired for at least 1 month in rats and mice repeatedly treated with amphetamine. This work highlights the key role of noradrenergic autoreceptor signaling in the persistent modifications induced by repeated amphetamine administration.