Upstream eventHippocampal Physiology, Altered
Cognitive Function, Decreased
Key Event Relationship Overview
AOPs Referencing Relationship
|AOP Name||Adjacency||Weight of Evidence||Quantitative Understanding|
|Inhibition of Thyroperoxidase and Subsequent Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Mammals||adjacent||High||Moderate|
|Sodium Iodide Symporter (NIS) Inhibition and Subsequent Adverse Neurodevelopmental Outcomes in Mammals||adjacent||Moderate||Low|
Life Stage Applicability
|During brain development||High|
Key Event Relationship Description
It is a well-accepted assertion that hippocampal synaptic integrity and plasticity are essential for spatial information processing in animals and spatial and episodic memory in humans (Burgess, 2002; Martin et al., 2000; Sweatt, 2016). A large number of studies with a variety of techniques and approaches have linked hippocampal functional deficits to decreased spatial ability, context learning, and fear learning. Study of human disease states and conditions where hippocampal function is impaired (i.e., brain trauma, Alzheimer’s disease, temporal lobe epilepsy, Down’s Syndrome), and imaging studies of hippocampal activation during memory challenge, makes itirrefutable that the hippocampus is essential for specific types of cognition abilities. Decades of animal research has reinforced this assertion.
There are many forms of synaptic plasticity and numerous ways in which physiological function of neural circuits can be assessed. Similarly, there are many forms of learning and memory and multiple tasks and specifics associated with these tasks that vary from laboratory to laboratory. An emerging field of computational cognitive neuroscience lies at the intersection of computational neuroscience, machine learning and neural network theory. These computational and theoretical frameworks support the participation of the hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity in learning and memory in animals and humans (for review see: Ashby and Helie, 2012).
Evidence Supporting this KER
The weight of evidence for proper hippocampal function and episodic memory in humans and the animal analogue, spatial and fear-based context learning, is strong. Seminal studies over the past 60 years firmly established the cellular basis of behavior with synaptic plasticity (LTP and LTD). And recent work has provided details on the local hippocampal circuitry needed for memory formation and behavioral change (Sweatt, 2016). In humans, virtual reality experiments in large-scale spatial contexts demonstrate the convergence of spatial memory performance in normal patients with fMRI of the hippocampus clearly demonstrating the essentiality of hippocampal function to spatial learning (Burgess, 2002). This assertion is consistent with a wealth of animal data on hippocampal learning and memory. In rodent models, functional impairment of the hippocampus assessed using electrophysiological techniques is correlated with deficits in spatial memory typically assessed using mazes, and memory for context often assessed in fear-based learning paradigms (O’Keefe and Nadel, 1978; Clark et al., 2000; Squire, 2004; Eichenbaum, 2000; Panjo and Bramham, 2014).
The biological plausibility of the KER is rated as strong. It is well accepted that the normal hippocampal function is critical for the acquisition and memory of context and spatially mediated tasks in rodents and humans (Sweatt, 2016).
Empirical support for this KER is strong. The requisite of hippocampal integrity to optimal visuo-spatial context learning (i.e., episodic memory) in humans and spatial learning in rodents is well documented. In vivo recording in conscious behaving animals has demonstrated activity-dependent neural changes taking place in the hippocampus during spatial learning (Gruart and Delgado-Garcia, 2007). Impairments in hippocampal function induced by drugs, chemicals, lesions, mutant or knock out models that cause changes in synaptic transmission, plasticity, and hippocampal network activity, are coincident with deficits in spatial and context-based fear learning (O’Keefe and Nadel, 1978; Bannerman et al., 2014; Lynch, 2004; Verret et al., 2012). Similarly, treatments found to enhance or facilitate hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity are associated with improved learning and memory (Deng et al., 2010; Novkovic et al., 2015; Andrade et al., 2015; Trivino-Paredes et al., 2016). For example, n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-mediated glutamatergic synaptic transmission is essential for the induction of hippocampal synaptic plasticity in the form of LTP. Blockade of this form of plasticity by selective NMDA-receptors blockers impairs LTP and hippocampal tests of learning and memory (reviewed in Sweatt, 2016). Perturbation of hippocampal plasticity and impaired spatial learning have been reported in adult offspring following prenatal ethanol exposure (An and Zhang, 2015). The fyn mutant mouse (fyn is a tyrosine kinase pathway) displays impairments in hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity, as well asspatial learning deficits (Grant et al., 1992). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) knock out animals exhibit synaptic plasticity deficits and learning impairments (Aarse et al., 2016; Panja and Bramham, 2014). In the Jacob/Nfsm model which also exhibits pronounced alterations in BDNF-mediated signaling, hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity impairments were accompanied by deficits in contextual fear conditioning and novel location recognition tasks (Spilker et al., 2016). Finally, in rodent models of developmental TH insufficiency, impairments in hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity are coincident with deficits in learning tasks that require the hippocampus (Opazo et al., 2008; Gilbert and Sui, 2006, Gilbert, 2011, Gilbert et al., 2016).
In humans, hippocampal physiology assessed using neuroimaging reveals activation of hippocampus upon engagement in spatial learning and episodic memory providing a direct linkage of these two specific KEs (Burgess, 2002). In fMRI studies of congenitally hypothyroid children, or children born to women with altered thyroid function during pregnancy, changes in hippocampal activity patterns during memory encoding and retention were observed and associated with memory impairments (Wheeler et al., 2012; 2015; Willoughby et al., 2013; 2014).
Temporal Evidence: The temporal nature of this KER is developmental (Seed et al., 2005). This has been demonstrated in multiple studies. It is well-recognized that there are critical developmental windows for disruption of the functional development of the hippocampus and the integrity of this structure is essential for later development of spatial ability, context learning, and fear learning. A wealth of studies have shown correlation between hippocampal LTP and spatial learning performance, as well as the role of glutamatergic synaptic transmission and BDNF-mediated signaling pathways in these processes (Bramham, 2007; Andero et al., 2014; Morris et al., 1986; Sweatt, 2016; Migaud et al., 1998). Although studies on reversibility are rare, deficits in hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity in slices from BDNF knockout animals can be rescued with recombinant BDNF (Patterson et al., 1996).
Dose-Response Evidence: Limited dose-response information is available. Studies have investigated dose-dependency of both electrophysiological and behavioral impairments in animals suffering from developmental TH insufficiency (e.g., Gilbert and Sui, 2006; Gilbert, 2011; Gilbert et al., 2016).
Uncertainties and Inconsistencies
There are no inconsistencies in this KER, but there are some uncertainties. It is a widely-held assertion that synaptic transmission and plasticity in the hippocampus underlie spatial learning (Martin et al., 2000; Gruart and Delgado-Garcia, 2007; Bramham, 2007). However, the causative relationship of which specific alterations in synaptic function are associated with specific cognitive deficits is difficult to ascertain given the many forms of learning and memory, and the complexity of synaptic interactions in even the simplest brain circuit.
Quantitative Understanding of the Linkage
Information does not exist to develop quantitative relationships between the KEs in this KER.
Known modulating factors
Known Feedforward/Feedback loops influencing this KER
Domain of Applicability
The majority of data in support of this KER is from rodent models. The evolutionary conservation of the role of the hippocampus in spatial cognitive functions suggests, with some uncertainty, that this KER is also applicable to other mammalian species.
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