[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Recent evidence suggests that slowly propagating Ca2+ waves from astrocytes can modulate the function of neurons. Altering astrocytic calcium processes in vivo may therefore affect neuronal and behavioral phenotypes. Previously, we generated transgenic mice that overexpress an astrocytic calcium-binding protein, S100 beta. Immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization showed elevated expression in the astrocytes of the hippocampus and other brain regions. Neurons in the hippocampus were negative for S100 beta. In this paper we analyze the hippocampal electrophysiology and learning properties of mice from two transgenic lines. Significant differences were found between the hippocampal slices of normal and transgenic mice in their response to high frequency (100 Hz) stimulation. The overall distribution of post-tetanic excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSP) of the slices from the transgenic mice was shifted significantly toward smaller values to a degree that 25% of slices exhibited depression. The altered hippocampal neurophysiology was accompanied by an impairment in a hippocampal-dependent learning task. Transgenic mice showed significant impairment in a spatial version of the Morris water maze, however, they performed normally in non-spatial tasks. Probe trials showed that transgenic mice, though significantly impaired, also acquired spatial information. The results suggested that the impairment was not due to motor dysfunction, impaired vision or motivation of the transgenic mice, findings compatible with a possible hippocampal mechanism. We conclude that overexpression of S100 beta in astrocytes impairs, but does not abolish, the ability to solve a spatial task, and it leads to a significantly decreased post-tetanic potentiation in the hippocampal slice. We hypothesize that the changes are due to calcium mediated processes. Our results support the notion that astrocytes are involved in higher brain functions.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The question of whether episodic memory, the ability to recall unique, personal experiences, is restricted to humans is a matter of current controversy. Recent work on food-storing jays suggests that several features of episodic memory may not be as exclusive to humans as previously thought. In this review we outline the critical features of episodic memory in humans, its relationship to declarative memory, and recent results revealing that jays can learn to perform a task that depends on certain features of episodic memory and can thus be considered 'episodic-like'. Finally, we compare this avian performance with a contemporary definition of human episodic memory and consider the implications for studies of hippocampal function and animal cognition.
Trends in Cognitive Sciences 03/1999; 3(2):74-80. · 16.01 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recollection of past experiences allows us to recall what a particular event was, and where and when it occurred, a form of memory that is thought to be unique to humans. It is known, however, that food-storing birds remember the spatial location and contents of their caches. Furthermore, food-storing animals adapt their caching and recovery strategies to the perishability of food stores, which suggests that they are sensitive to temporal factors. Here we show that scrub jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) remember 'when' food items are stored by allowing them to recover perishable 'wax worms' (wax-moth larvae) and non-perishable peanuts which they had previously cached in visuospatially distinct sites. Jays searched preferentially for fresh wax worms, their favoured food, when allowed to recover them shortly after caching. However, they rapidly learned to avoid searching for worms after a longer interval during which the worms had decayed. The recovery preference of jays demonstrates memory of where and when particular food items were cached, thereby fulfilling the behavioural criteria for episodic-like memory in non-human animals.
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