February 28, 2021

A computational grid-to-place-cell transformation model indicates a synaptic driver of place cell impairment in early-stage Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is characterized by progressive neurodegeneration and cognitive impairment. Synaptic dysfunction is an established early symptom, which correlates strongly with cognitive decline, and is hypothesised to mediate the diverse neuronal network abnormalities observed in AD. However, how synaptic dysfunction contributes to network pathology and cognitive impairment in AD remains elusive. Here, we present a grid-cell-to-place-cell transformation model of long-term CA1 place cell dynamics to interrogate the effect of synaptic loss on network function and environmental representation. Synapse loss modelled after experimental observations in the APP/PS1 mouse model was found to induce firing rate alterations and place cell abnormalities that have previously been observed in AD mouse models, including enlarged place fields and lower across-session stability of place fields. Our results support the hypothesis that synaptic dysfunction underlies cognitive deficits, and demonstrate how impaired environmental representation may arise in the early stages of AD. We further propose that dysfunction of excitatory and inhibitory inputs to CA1 pyramidal cells may cause distinct impairments in place cell function, namely reduced stability and place map resolution.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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