The study is the first to link the memory of a social experience with neurogenesis in the hippocampus, Dr. Eisch said. Recently, Dr. Eisch and her team have linked adult neurogenesis with addiction. Previously, neurogenesis was primarily associated with spatial learning and memory.
In this study, Dr. Eisch and her colleagues exposed some mice to social defeat by having the animals live in the same cage as larger, aggressor mice for five minutes a day, and in the same cage but with a barrier in place the rest of the day. Researchers then tested the mice to see if they were susceptible to stress.
The researchers labeled the new cells of susceptible and unsusceptible mice so they could see how the cells divided. Both types of mice produced fewer dividing cells immediately after stress, but in the long run, mice susceptible to stress had more new adult cells than unsusceptible and control mice, who lived in cages with nonaggressor mice.
Dr. Eisch and her colleagues also used radiation to prevent hippocampal neurogenesis in all groups of mice. Mice susceptible to stress stopped producing new nerve cells and didn't display social avoidance in the long term.
Inhibiting social avoidance also had detrimental effects, however.
"Radiation in susceptible mice led to behavior that might be interpreted as harmful, such as approaching a potential aggressor mouse instead of avoiding it. We hypothesize that the survival of new nerve cells may be a compensatory event in the brain to allow the mouse to remember a socially relevant aggressor," Dr. Eisch said. "We are very eager to see if these results carry over to other models of stress in animals and to explore the mechanisms underlying these changes, as these are critical steps to understanding how adult-generated neurons might be modulated to help humans in stressful situations."
|Contact: LaKisha Ladson|
UT Southwestern Medical Center