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Tonic Inhibitory Control of Dentate Gyrus Granule Cells by α5-Containing GABAA Receptors Reduces Memory Interference


Engin, Elif; Zarnowska, Ewa D; Benke, Dietmar; Tsvetkov, Evgeny; Sigal, Maksim; Keist, Ruth; Bolshakov, Vadim Y; Pearce, Robert A; Rudolph, Uwe (2015). Tonic Inhibitory Control of Dentate Gyrus Granule Cells by α5-Containing GABAA Receptors Reduces Memory Interference. Journal of Neuroscience, 35(40):13698-13712.

Abstract

UNLABELLED Interference between similar or overlapping memories formed at different times poses an important challenge on the hippocampal declarative memory system. Difficulties in managing interference are at the core of disabling cognitive deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders. Computational models have suggested that, in the normal brain, the sparse activation of the dentate gyrus granule cells maintained by tonic inhibitory control enables pattern separation, an orthogonalization process that allows distinct representations of memories despite interference. To test this mechanistic hypothesis, we generated mice with significantly reduced expression of the α5-containing GABAA (α5-GABAARs) receptors selectively in the granule cells of the dentate gyrus (α5DGKO mice). α5DGKO mice had reduced tonic inhibition of the granule cells without any change in fast phasic inhibition and showed increased activation in the dentate gyrus when presented with novel stimuli. α5DGKO mice showed impairments in cognitive tasks characterized by high interference, without any deficiencies in low-interference tasks, suggesting specific impairment of pattern separation. Reduction of fast phasic inhibition in the dentate gyrus through granule cell-selective knock-out of α2-GABAARs or the knock-out of the α5-GABAARs in the downstream CA3 area did not detract from pattern separation abilities, which confirms the anatomical and molecular specificity of the findings. In addition to lending empirical support to computational hypotheses, our findings have implications for the treatment of interference-related cognitive symptoms in neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly considering the availability of pharmacological agents selectively targeting α5-GABAARs.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Interference between similar memories poses a significant limitation on the hippocampal declarative memory system, and impaired interference management is a cognitive symptom in many disorders. Thus, understanding mechanisms of successful interference management or processes that can lead to interference-related memory problems has high theoretical and translational importance. This study provides empirical evidence that tonic inhibition in the dentate gyrus (DG), which maintains sparseness of neuronal activation in the DG, is essential for management of interference. The specificity of findings to tonic, but not faster, more transient types of neuronal inhibition and to the DG, but not the neighboring brain areas, is presented through control experiments. Thus, the findings link interference management to a specific mechanism, proposed previously by computational models.

Abstract

UNLABELLED Interference between similar or overlapping memories formed at different times poses an important challenge on the hippocampal declarative memory system. Difficulties in managing interference are at the core of disabling cognitive deficits in neuropsychiatric disorders. Computational models have suggested that, in the normal brain, the sparse activation of the dentate gyrus granule cells maintained by tonic inhibitory control enables pattern separation, an orthogonalization process that allows distinct representations of memories despite interference. To test this mechanistic hypothesis, we generated mice with significantly reduced expression of the α5-containing GABAA (α5-GABAARs) receptors selectively in the granule cells of the dentate gyrus (α5DGKO mice). α5DGKO mice had reduced tonic inhibition of the granule cells without any change in fast phasic inhibition and showed increased activation in the dentate gyrus when presented with novel stimuli. α5DGKO mice showed impairments in cognitive tasks characterized by high interference, without any deficiencies in low-interference tasks, suggesting specific impairment of pattern separation. Reduction of fast phasic inhibition in the dentate gyrus through granule cell-selective knock-out of α2-GABAARs or the knock-out of the α5-GABAARs in the downstream CA3 area did not detract from pattern separation abilities, which confirms the anatomical and molecular specificity of the findings. In addition to lending empirical support to computational hypotheses, our findings have implications for the treatment of interference-related cognitive symptoms in neuropsychiatric disorders, particularly considering the availability of pharmacological agents selectively targeting α5-GABAARs.
SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Interference between similar memories poses a significant limitation on the hippocampal declarative memory system, and impaired interference management is a cognitive symptom in many disorders. Thus, understanding mechanisms of successful interference management or processes that can lead to interference-related memory problems has high theoretical and translational importance. This study provides empirical evidence that tonic inhibition in the dentate gyrus (DG), which maintains sparseness of neuronal activation in the DG, is essential for management of interference. The specificity of findings to tonic, but not faster, more transient types of neuronal inhibition and to the DG, but not the neighboring brain areas, is presented through control experiments. Thus, the findings link interference management to a specific mechanism, proposed previously by computational models.

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Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology
07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:7 October 2015
Deposited On:04 Dec 2015 07:12
Last Modified:13 Aug 2017 13:22
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN:0270-6474
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1370-15.2015
PubMed ID:26446222

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