Irmgard Amrein

University of Zurich, Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland

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Publications (26)99.95 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Work on laboratory and wild rodents suggests that domestication may impact on the extent of adult hippocampal neurogenesis and its responsiveness to regulatory factors. There is, however, no model of laboratory rodents and their non-domesticated conspecifics that would allow a controlled comparison of the effect of domestication. Here, we present a controlled within-species comparison of adult hippocampal neurogenesis in farm-bred foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that differ in their genetically determined degree of tameness. Quantitative comparisons of cell proliferation (Ki67) and differentiating cells of neuronal lineage (doublecortin, DCX) in the hippocampus of foxes were performed as a proxy for neurogenesis. Higher neurogenesis was observed in tameness-selected foxes, notably in an extended subgranular zone of the middle and temporal compartments of the hippocampus. Increased neurogenesis is negatively associated with aggressive behavior. Across all animals, strong septo-temporal gradients were found, with higher numbers of proliferating cells and young neurons relative to resident granule cells in the temporal than in the septal hippocampus. The opposite gradient was found for the ratio of DCX/Ki67 positive cells. When tameness-selected and unselected foxes are compared to rodents and primates, proliferation is similar, while the number of young neurons is higher. The difference may be mediated by an extended period of differentiation or higher rate of survival. On the background of this species-specific neurogenic pattern, selection of foxes for a single behavioral trait key to domestication, i.e. genetic tameness, is accompanied by global and region-specific increases in neurogenesis. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Hippocampus 01/2015; · 4.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: African mole-rats (family Bathyergidae) are small to medium sized, long-lived and strictly subterranean rodents that became valuable animal models as a result of their longevity and diversity in social organization. The formation and integration of new hippocampal neurons in adult mammals (adult hippocampal neurogenesis, AHN) correlates negatively with age and positively with habitat complexity. Here we present quantitative data on AHN in wild-derived mole-rats of one year and older, and briefly describe its anatomical context including markers of neuronal function (calbindin and parvalbumin). Solitary Cape mole-rats (Georychus capensis), social highveld mole-rats (Cryptomys hottentotus pretoriae), and eusocial naked mole-rats (Heterocephalus glaber) were assessed. Compared to other rodents, the hippocampal formation in mole-rats is small, but shows a distinct cytoarchitecture in the dentate gyrus and CA1. Distributions of the calcium-binding proteins differ from those seen in rodents; e.g., calbindin in CA3 of naked mole-rats distributes similar to the pattern seen in early primate development, and calbindin staining extends into the stratum lacunosum moleculare of Cape mole-rats. Proliferating cells and young neurons are found in low numbers in the hippocampus of all three mole-rat species. Resident granule cell numbers are low as well. Proliferating cells expressed as a percentage of resident granule cells are in the range of other rodents, while the percentage of young neurons is lower than that observed in surface dwelling rodents. Between mole-rat species, we observed no difference in the percentage of proliferating cells. The percentages of young neurons are high in social highveld and naked mole-rats, and low in solitary Cape mole-rats. The findings support that proliferation is regulated independently of average life expectancy and habitat. Instead, neuronal differentiation reflects species-specific demands, which appear lower in subterranean rodents.
    Frontiers in Neuroanatomy 04/2014; · 4.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The brains of sengis (elephant shrews, order Macroscelidae) have long been known to contain a hippocampus that in terms of allometric progression indices is larger than that of most primates and equal in size to that of humans. In this report, we provide descriptions of hippocampal cytoarchitecture in the eastern rock sengi (Elephantulus myurus), of the distributions of hippocampal calretinin, calbindin, parvalbumin, and somatostatin, of principal neuron numbers, and of cell numbers related to proliferation and neuronal differentiation in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Sengi hippocampal cytoarchitecture is an amalgamation of characters that are found in CA1 of, e.g., guinea pig and rabbits and in CA3 and dentate gyrus of primates. Correspondence analysis of total cell numbers and quantitative relations between principal cell populations relate this sengi to macaque monkeys and domestic pigs, and distinguish the sengi from distinct patterns of relations found in humans, dogs, and murine rodents. Calretinin and calbindin are present in some cell populations that also express these proteins in other species, e.g., interneurons at the stratum oriens/alveus border or temporal hilar mossy cells, but neurons expressing these markers are often scarce or absent in other layers. The distributions of parvalbumin and somatostatin resemble those in other species. Normalized numbers of PCNA+ proliferating cells and doublecortin-positive (DCX+) differentiating cells of neuronal lineage fall within the overall ranges of murid rodents, but differed from three murid species captured in the same habitat in that fewer DCX+ cells relative to PCNA+ were observed. The large and well-differentiated sengi hippocampus is not accompanied by correspondingly sized cortical and subcortical limbic areas that are the main hippocampal sources of afferents and targets of efferents. This points to intrinsic hippocampal information processing as the selective advantage of the large sengi hippocampus.
    Frontiers in Neuroanatomy 10/2013; 7:34. · 4.18 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A large number of laboratory and field based studies are being carried out on mole-rats, both in our research group and others. Several studies have highlighted the development of adverse behaviours in laboratory animals and have emphasised the importance of enrichment for captive animals. Hence we were interested in evaluating how laboratory housing would affect behavioural performance in mole-rats. We investigated exploratory behaviour, the ability to discriminate between novel and familiar environments and reference memory in the solitary Cape mole-rat (Georychuscapensis). Our data showed that both wild and captive animals readily explore open spaces and tunnels. Wild animals were however more active than their captive counterparts. In the Y maze two trial discrimination task, wild animals failed to discriminate between novel and familiar environments, while laboratory housed mole-rats showed preferential spatial discrimination in terms of the length of time spent in the novel arm. The performance of the laboratory and wild animals were similar when tested for reference memory in the Y maze, both groups showed a significant improvement compared to the first day, from the 3rd day onwards. Wild animals made more mistakes whereas laboratory animals were slower in completing the task. The difference in performance between wild and laboratory animals in the Y-maze may be as a result of the lower activity of the laboratory animals. Laboratory maintained Cape mole-rats show classic behaviours resulting from a lack of stimulation such as reduced activity and increased aggression. However, they do display an improved novelty discrimination compared to the wild animals. Slower locomotion rate of the laboratory animals may increase the integration time of stimuli, hence result in a more thorough inspection of the surroundings. Unlike the captive animals, wild animals show flexibility in their responses to unpredictable events, which is an important requirement under natural living conditions.
    PLoS ONE 09/2013; 8(9):e75863. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Daily life of wild mammals is characterized by a multitude of attractive and aversive stimuli. The hippocampus processes complex polymodal information associated with such stimuli and mediates adequate behavioral responses. How newly generated hippocampal neurons in wild animals contribute to hippocampal function is still a subject of debate. Here, we test the relationship between adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) and habitat types. To this end, we compare wild Muridae species of southern Africa [Namaqua rock mouse (Micaelamys namaquensis), red veld rat (Aethomys chrysophilus), highveld gerbil (Tatera brantsii), and spiny mouse (Acomys spinosissimus)] with data from wild European Muridae [long-tailed wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), pygmy field mice (Apodemus microps), yellow-necked wood mice (Apodemus flavicollis), and house mice (Mus musculus domesticus)] from previous studies. The pattern of neurogenesis, expressed in normalized numbers of Ki67- and Doublecortin(DCX)-positive cells to total granule cells (GCs), is similar for the species from a southern African habitat. However, we found low proliferation, but high neuronal differentiation in rodents from the southern African habitat compared to rodents from the European environment. Within the African rodents, we observe additional regulatory and morphological traits in the hippocampus. Namaqua rock mice with previous pregnancies showed lower AHN compared to males and nulliparous females. The phylogenetically closely related species (Namaqua rock mouse and red veld rat) show a CA4, which is not usually observed in murine rodents. The specific features of the southern environment that may be associated with the high number of young neurons in African rodents still remain to be elucidated. This study provides the first evidence that a habitat can shape adult neurogenesis in rodents across phylogenetic groups.
    Frontiers in Neuroscience 04/2013; 7:59.
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    ABSTRACT: Aging is accompanied by poor learning and memory abilities and by decreased hippocampal neurogenesis, a process that is also modulated by oxidative stress (OS). P66(Shc) has recently emerged as a novel mammalian gerontogene able to affect healthspan during aging. Deletion of this gene in mice leads to reduced OS accompanied by decreased incidence of age-related pathologies and reduced signs of behavioral aging. We hypothesized that p66(Shc-/-) mutants might show increased neurogenesis in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in learning and memory processes. To this aim, granule cell number, proliferation, neuronal differentiation, and cell death were assessed in the hippocampus in senescent p66(Shc-/-) [knock out (KO)] and p66(Shc+/+) [wild type (WT)] male and female mice. Spatial learning abilities and spontaneous activity were also investigated in a multifunctional behavioral system-IntelliCages. The behavioral analysis revealed that females in general perform better in spatial learning tasks, with genotype effects being apparent in the activity pattern only. Likewise, all females showed increased neuronal differentiation, whereas increased proliferation was found only in those belonging to the p66(Shc-/-) genotype, indicating that they might be protected from precursor cell loss. The number of dying cells was not affected by genotype or sex; however, all KO mice showed less granule cells than WT. Overall, our data suggest that hippocampal function is protected in the female gender at older age, an effect amplified by reduced OS in the p66(Shc-/-) mutant. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Hippocampus 06/2012; · 4.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The lateral ventricle (LV) of the adult rodent brain harbors neural stem cells (NSCs) that continue to generate new neurons throughout life. NSCs located in defined areas of the LV walls generate progenitors with distinct transcriptional profiles that are committed to specific neuronal fates. Here, we assessed if such diversity of NSCs also exist in the adult common marmoset, a widely used primate species in basic and clinical neuroscience research. We first investigated the 3D distributions of proliferative progenitors and committed neuroblasts in the marmoset forebrain. In addition to these maps, we assessed the spatial presence of divergent progenitor populations based on their expression of defined transcription factors, that is, Dlx2, Pax6, Tbr2, and Ngn2 which are differentially expressed by γ-aminobutyric acidergic versus glutamatergic progenitors in the adult rodent forebrain. In striking contrast to rodents, glutamatergic progenitors were only sparse in neonates and absent from the adult LV, whilst present in the hippocampus. Our analyses highlight major differences in the diversity of NSCs of the marmoset LV compared with rodents and emphasize the need to address NSCs diversity in evolutionary higher order mammals concomitantly to rodents.
    Cerebral Cortex 04/2012; · 8.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Deletion of the p66(Shc) gene results in lean and healthy mice, retards aging, and protects from aging-associated diseases, raising the question of why p66(Shc) has been selected, and what is its physiological role. We have investigated survival and reproduction of p66(Shc)-/- mice in a population living in a large outdoor enclosure for a year, subjected to food competition and exposed to winter temperatures. Under these conditions, deletion of p66(Shc) was strongly counterselected. Laboratory studies revealed that p66(Shc)-/- mice have defects in fat accumulation, thermoregulation, and reproduction, suggesting that p66(Shc) has been evolutionarily selected because of its role in energy metabolism. These findings imply that the health impact of targeting aging genes might depend on the specific energetic niche and caution should be exercised against premature conclusions regarding gene functions that have only been observed in protected laboratory conditions.
    Aging cell 11/2011; 11(1):162-8. · 7.55 Impact Factor
  • Irmgard Amrein, Karin Isler, Hans-Peter Lipp
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    ABSTRACT: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is a prominent event in rodents. In species with longer life expectancies, newly born cells in the adult dentate gyrus of the hippocampal formation are less abundant or can be completely absent. Several lines of evidence indicate that the regulatory mechanisms of adult neurogenesis differ between short- and long-lived mammals. After a critical appraisal of the factors and problems associated with comparing different species, we provide a quantitative comparison derived from seven laboratory strains of mice (BALB, C57BL/6, CD1, outbred) and rats (F344, Sprague-Dawley, Wistar), six other rodent species of which four are wild-derived (wood mouse, vole, spiny mouse and guinea pig), three non-human primate species (marmoset and two macaque species) and one carnivore (red fox). Normalizing the number of proliferating cells to total granule cell number, we observe an overall exponential decline in proliferation that is chronologically equal between species and orders and independent of early developmental processes and life span. Long- and short-lived mammals differ with regard to major life history stages; at the time points of weaning, age at first reproduction and average life expectancy, long-lived primates and foxes have significantly fewer proliferating cells than rodents. Although the database for neuronal differentiation is limited, we find indications that the extent of neuronal differentiation is subject to species-specific selective adaptations. We conclude that absolute age is the critical factor regulating cell genesis in the adult hippocampus of mammals. Ontogenetic and ecological factors primarily influence the regulation of neuronal differentiation rather than the rate of cell proliferation.
    European Journal of Neuroscience 09/2011; 34(6):978-87. · 3.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) of laboratory rodents is enhanced by physical exercise in a running wheel. However, little is known about modulation of AHN in wild-living rodent species. The finding that AHN cannot be modulated by voluntary exercise in wild wood mice suggests that AHN may be regulated differently under natural conditions than in laboratory adapted animals. In order to minimize genetic influences, we aimed to investigate the genetically closest wild-living relatives of laboratory mice. Here, C57BL/6 mice and F1 offspring of wild house mice (Mus musculus domesticus) were tested in two different running paradigms: voluntary running and running-for-food--a condition in which mice had to run for their daily allowance of food. In house mice, we found a non-significant trend towards increased numbers of proliferating cells and doublecortin-positive immature neurons in both voluntary runners and runners-for-food. Voluntary running in C57BL/6 mice resulted in a 30% increase in cell proliferation and a pronounced 70% increase in doublecortin-positive cells. C57BL/6 runners-for-food ran as much as voluntary runners, but they showed no enhancement of cell proliferation, a small increase in the number of doublecortin-positive cells and more pyknotic cells compared to controls. Taken together, these findings suggest that motivational aspects of running are critical determinants of the increased cell proliferation in C57BL/6 mice. In contrast, running has smaller and context-independent effects in house mice. The findings imply a difference in the regulation of AHN in C57BL/6 mice and their wild-derived conspecifics.
    Behavioural brain research 07/2011; 227(2):340-7. · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The increasing resolution of tract-tracing studies has led to the definition of segments along the transverse axis of the hippocampal pyramidal cell layer, which may represent functionally defined elements. This review will summarize evidence for a morphological and functional differentiation of pyramidal cells along the radial (deep to superficial) axis of the cell layer. In many species, deep and superficial sublayers can be identified histologically throughout large parts of the septotemporal extent of the hippocampus. Neurons in these sublayers are generated during different periods of development. During development, deep and superficial cells express genes (Sox5, SatB2) that also specify the phenotypes of superficial and deep cells in the neocortex. Deep and superficial cells differ neurochemically (e.g. calbindin and zinc) and in their adult gene expression patterns. These markers also distinguish sublayers in the septal hippocampus, where they are not readily apparent histologically in rat or mouse. Deep and superficial pyramidal cells differ in septal, striatal, and neocortical efferent connections. Distributions of deep and superficial pyramidal cell dendrites and studies in reeler or sparsely GFP-expressing mice indicate that this also applies to afferent pathways. Histological, neurochemical, and connective differences between deep and superficial neurons may correlate with (patho-) physiological phenomena specific to pyramidal cells at different radial locations. We feel that an appreciation of radial subdivisions in the pyramidal cell layer reminiscent of lamination in other cortical areas may be critical in the interpretation of studies of hippocampal anatomy and function.
    Brain Structure and Function 05/2011; 216(4):301-17. · 7.84 Impact Factor
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  • Fabienne Klaus, Irmgard Amrein
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    ABSTRACT: Adult hippocampal neurogenesis, i.e. the formation of new neurons within the existing neuronal network of the dentate gyrus, is subject to modulation by internal and external factors. Among them, voluntary physical exercise is one of the best investigated positive stimulators of neurogenesis in laboratory rodents. Straightforward translation of the observed running-increased neurogenesis has nourished the commonsensical idea that physical challenges would keep our brains healthy and young. However, several lines of evidence indicate that the tempting assumption that, through physical exercise neurogenesis increases and hence cognition improves, might fall short of more complex effects and interactions. In the present work we argue that motivation may be a key factor in determining whether exercise will positively affect neurogenesis in the hippocampus of laboratory animals. In addition, it has been shown that in genetically heterogeneous wild mouse species hippocampal neurogenesis can be exercise- and context-independent. It appears that in wild rodents adult hippocampal neurogenesis is stabilized to the sum of transient pleasant and aversive stimuli characterizing a natural environment. Variability in the regulation of adult neurogenesis questions if the concept of an improved cognition mediated by a running-increased neurogenesis can be easily transferred to the human condition. The present review surveys the research on exercise and hippocampal neurogenesis in the context of motivation, genetic background and species differences.
    Behavioural brain research 04/2011; 227(2):363-70. · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Modelling entorhinal function or evaluating the consequences of neuronal losses which accompany neurodegenerative disorders requires detailed information on the quantitative cellular composition of the normal entorhinal cortex. Using design-based stereological methods, we estimated the numbers, proportions, densities and sectional areas of layer II cells in the medial entorhinal area (MEA), and its constituent caudal entorhinal (CE) and medial entorhinal (ME) fields, in the rat and mouse. We estimated layer II of the MEA to contain approximately 58,000 neurons in the rat and approximately 24,000 neurons in the mouse. Field CE accounted for more than three-quarters of the total neuron population in both species. In the rat, layer II of the MEA is comprised of 38% ovoid stellate cells, 29% polygonal stellate cells and 17% pyramidal cells. The remainder is comprised of much smaller populations of horizontal bipolar, tripolar, oblique pyramidal and small round cells. In the mouse, MEA layer II is comprised of 52% ovoid stellate cells, 22% polygonal stellate cells and 14% pyramidal cells. Significant species differences in the proportions of ovoid and polygonal stellate cells suggest differences in physiological and functional properties. The majority of MEA layer II cells contribute to the entorhinal-hippocampal pathways. The degree of divergence from MEA layer II cells to the dentate granule cells was similar in the rat and mouse. In both rat and mouse, the only dorsoventral difference we observed is a gradient in polygonal stellate cell sectional area, which may relate to the dorsoventral increase in the size and spacing of individual neuronal firing fields. In summary, we found species-specific cellular compositions of MEA layer II, while, within a species, quantitative parameters other than cell size are stable along the dorsoventral and mediolateral axis of the MEA.
    Neuroscience 09/2010; 170(1):156-65. · 3.33 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This study describes the organisation of the entorhinal cortex of the Megachiroptera, straw-coloured fruit bat and Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat. Using Nissl and Timm stains, parvalbumin and SMI-32 immunohistochemistry, we identified five fields within the medial (MEA) and lateral (LEA) entorhinal areas. MEA fields E(CL) and E(C) are characterised by a poor differentiation between layers II and III, a distinct layer IV and broad, stratified layers V and VI. LEA fields E(I), E(R) and E(L) are distinguished by cell clusters in layer II, a clear differentiation between layers II and III, a wide columnar layer III and a broad sublayer Va. Clustering in LEA layer II was more typical of the straw-coloured fruit bat. Timm-staining was most intense in layers Ib and II across all fields and layer III of field E(R). Parvalbumin-like staining varied along a medio-lateral gradient with highest immunoreactivity in layers II and III of MEA and more lateral fields of LEA. Sparse SMI-32-like immunoreactivity was seen only in Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bat. Of the neurons in MEA layer II, ovoid stellate cells account for approximately 38%, polygonal stellate cells for approximately 8%, pyramidal cells for approximately 18%, oblique pyramidal cells for approximately 6% and other neurons of variable morphology for approximately 29%. Differences between bats and other species in cellular make-up and cytoarchitecture of layer II may relate to their three-dimensional habitat. Cytoarchitecture of layer V in conjunction with high encephalisation and structural changes in the hippocampus suggest similarities in efferent hippocampal --> entorhinal --> cortical interactions between fruit bats and primates.
    Brain Structure and Function 05/2010; 214(4):375-93. · 7.84 Impact Factor
  • Irmgard Amrein, Lutz Slomianka
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    ABSTRACT: Wild red foxes, proverbially cunning carnivores, are investigated for adult hippocampal neurogenesis and morphological characteristics of the dentate gyrus. Adult red foxes harbor almost 15-times more young, doublecortin-positive neurons in their dentate gyrus than domesticated dogs. The number of doublecortin-positive cells corresponds to 4.4% of the total granule cell number, whereas dividing cells amount to only 0.06%. Compared to laboratory mice, proliferating (Ki67-positive) and dying cells are rare, but the percentage of new neurons is quite similar. The numbers of proliferating cells, young cells of neuronal lineage and dying cells correlate. Resident granule cells can be divided into two types with strikingly different morphologies, staining patterns and distinct septotemporal distributions. Small sized granule cells with a nuclear diameter of 7.3 microm account for approximately 83% of all granule cells. The remaining granule cells are significantly larger with a nuclear diameter of 9.4 microm diameter and stain heavily for NeuN. Septally and mid-septotemporally, densely packed small cells dominate. Here, only few large granule cells are scattered throughout the layer. Temporally, granule cells become more loosely packed and most of the cells are of the large type. High rates of neurogenesis are observed in foxes with high numbers of large granule cells, whereas the number of small granule cells does not correlate with any of the neurogenesis-related cell counts. Staining for parvalbumin, glutamate receptor 2/3, GAP-43 and dynorphin shows an anatomical context that is a composite of features common also to other mammalian species. In summary, we report a morphologically distinct granule cell type which correlates with adult hippocampal neurogenesis in the fox. Furthermore, the maturation phase of the young neurons may be prolonged as in other long living species such as primates.
    Brain research 03/2010; 1328:12-24. · 2.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Species-specific characteristics of neuronal plasticity emerging from comparative studies can address the functional relevance of hippocampal or cortical plasticity in the light of ecological adaptation and evolutionary history of a given species. Here, we present a quantitative and qualitative analysis of neurogenesis in young and adult free-living Wahlberg's epauletted fruit bats. Using the markers for proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), doublecortin (DCX) and polysialic acid neural cell adhesion molecule (PSA-NCAM), our findings in the hippocampus, olfactory bulb and cortical regions are described and compared to reports in other mammals. Expressed as a percentage of the total number of granule cells, PCNA- and BrdU-positive cells accounted for 0.04 in young to 0.01% in adult animals; DCX-positive cells for 0.05 (young) to 0.01% (adult); PSA-NCAM-positive cells for 0.1 (young) to 0.02% (adult), and pyknotic cells for 0.007 (young) to 0.005% (adult). The numbers were comparable to other long-lived, late-maturing mammals such as primates. A significant increase in the total granule cell number from young to adult animals demonstrated the successful formation and integration of new cells. In adulthood, granule cell number appeared stable and was surprisingly low in comparison to other species. Observations in the olfactory bulb and rostral migratory stream were qualitatively similar to descriptions in other species. In the ventral horn of the lateral ventricle, we noted prominent expression of DCX and PSA-NCAM forming a temporal migratory stream targeting the piriform cortex, possibly reflecting the importance of olfaction to these species. Low, but persistent hippocampal neurogenesis in non-echolocating fruit bats contrasted the findings in echolocating microbats, in which hippocampal neurogenesis was largely absent. Together with the observed intense cortical plasticity in the olfactory system of fruit bats we suggest a differential influence of sensory modalities on hippocampal and cortical plasticity in this mammalian order.
    Brain Behavior and Evolution 01/2010; 76(2):116-27. · 2.89 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Exercise is one of the best-known stimulators of adult hippocampal neurogenesis, but it is not known if voluntary changes in the intensity of exercise are accompanied by changes in neurogenesis. In this study we investigated whether a reward influences the performance in a running wheel and the rate of cell proliferation, neuronal differentiation and cell death in C57BL/6 mice. Mice had free access to a running wheel during the first week of the experiment. In the second week, animals were rewarded for their performance and compared to normal voluntary running and control mice. A reward significantly increased the performance by 78% when compared to the non-rewarded performance of the first week. The performance of the non-rewarded runners remained relatively constant. Fourteen days of exercise significantly increased cell proliferation by 27% and the number of doublecortin immunoreactive cells by 46%. A reward and the associated increase of performance did not modulate proliferation, cell death or the number of cells entering the neuronal lineage. We suggest that, in C57BL/6 mice, either exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis to a ceiling value, which is reached by a performance at or below the level achieved by voluntary wheel running, or that a possible positive effect of increased running-wheel activity is balanced by stress resulting from rewarded running, which is no longer performed on a strictly voluntary basis.
    Behavioural brain research 07/2009; 204(1):175-81. · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Studies of adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) in laboratory rodents have raised hopes for therapeutic interventions in neurodegenerative diseases and mood disorders, as AHN can be modulated by physical exercise, stress and environmental changes in these animals. Since it is not known whether cell proliferation and neurogenesis in wild living mice can be experimentally changed, this study investigates the responsiveness of AHN to voluntary running and to environmental change in wild caught long-tailed wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus). Statistical analyses show that running had no impact on cell proliferation (p = 0.44), neurogenesis (p = 0.94) or survival of newly born neurons (p = 0.58). Likewise, housing in the laboratory has no effect on AHN. In addition, interindividual differences in the level of neurogenesis are not related to interindividual differences of running wheel performance (rs = -0.09, p = 0.79). There is a correlation between the number of proliferating cells and the number of cells of neuronal lineage (rs = 0.63, p < 0.001) and the number of pyknotic cells (rs = 0.5, p = 0.009), respectively. Plasticity of adult neurogenesis is an established feature in strains of house mice and brown rats. Here, we demonstrate that voluntary running and environmental changes which are effective in house mice and brown rats cannot influence AHN in long-tailed wood mice. This indicates that in wild long-tailed wood mice different regulatory mechanisms act on cell proliferation and neurogenesis. If this difference reflects a species-specific adaptation or a broader adaptive strategy to a natural vs. domestic environment is unknown.
    BMC Neuroscience 05/2009; 10:43. · 2.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Laser capture microdissection (LCM) permits isolation of specific cell types and cell groups based upon morphology, anatomical landmarks and histochemical properties. This powerful technique can be used for region-specific dissection if the target structure is clearly delineated. However, it is difficult to visualize anatomical boundaries in an unstained specimen, while histological staining can complicate the microdissection process and compromise downstream processing and analysis. We now introduce a novel method in which in situ hybridization (ISH) signal is used to guide LCM on adjacent unstained sections to collect tissue from neurochemically defined regions of the human postmortem brain to minimize sample manipulation prior to analysis. This approach was validated in nuclei that provide monoaminergic inputs to the forebrain, and likely contribute to the pathophysiology of mood disorders. This method was used successfully to carry out gene expression profiling and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) confirmation from the dissected material. When compared to traditional micropunch dissections, our ISH-guided LCM method provided enhanced signal intensity for mRNAs of specific monoaminergic marker genes as measured by genome-wide gene expression microarrays. Enriched expression of specific monoaminergic genes (as determined by microarrays and qPCR) was detected within appropriate anatomical locations validating the accuracy of microdissection. Together these results support the conclusion that ISH-guided LCM permits acquisition of enriched nucleus-specific RNA that can be successfully used for downstream gene expression investigations. Future studies will utilize this approach for gene expression profiling of neurochemically defined regions of postmortem brains collected from mood disorder patients.
    Journal of Neuroscience Methods 03/2009; · 1.96 Impact Factor
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    Irmgard Amrein, Hans-Peter Lipp
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    ABSTRACT: Substantial production of new neurons in the adult mammalian brain is restricted to the olfactory system and the hippocampal formation. Its physiological and behavioural role is still debated. By comparing adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) across many mammalian species, one might recognize a common function. AHN is most prominent in rodents, but shows considerable variability across species, being lowest or missing in primates and bats. The latter finding argues against a critical role of AHN in spatial learning and memory. The common functional denominator across all species investigated thus far is a strong decline of AHN from infancy to midlife. As predicted by Altman and colleagues in 1973, this implies a role in transforming juvenile unpredictable to predictable behaviour, typically characterizing mammalian behaviour once reproductive competence has been attained. However, as only a fraction of mammalian species has been investigated, further comparative studies are necessary in order to recognize whether AHN has a common unique function, or whether it mediates species-specific hippocampal functions.
    Biology letters 11/2008; 5(1):141-4. · 3.43 Impact Factor