News article

Inflammation in the brain can impair discrimination memory

Posted:  Friday, September 19, 2014

Discrimination memory is the ability to retrieve or recall complex memories of similar but distinct experiences, for example, remembering what we did at work or ate at dinner. In a recent finding, researchers have found that brain inflammation can disrupt these memory retrieval networks. According to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, immune system signaling molecules called cytokines can disrupt communication between neurons in the hippocampus, a brain area critical for discrimination memory. The researchers involved in the study exposed rats to two similar but different environments over several days. One of the environments involved mild foot shocks. Over time, the rats learnt to distinguish between the two environments and demonstrated apprehensiveness in entering the mild foot shocks environment. Once this change in rat behaviour was evident, some of the rats were administered with a low dose of a bacterial agent. Administration of the bacterial agent produced a neuroinflammatory immune response and consequently led the release of cytokines in the brain. Rats that were administered the bacterial agent were now unable to distinguish between the two environments. Additional cell-based assays indicated that the cytokines impaired memory recall by disturbing specific neuronal circuits in the hippocampus. Cognitive deficits occurring due to elevated cytokine levels in the brain are commonly seen in patients with autoimmune or neurodegenerative diseases. Patients undergoing chemotherapy also suffer from cognitive decline, a condition termed ‘chemo brain’. The present study helps establish a link between immune system activation, altered neural circuits and diminished memory recall. This could pave the way for simple interventions such as anti-inflammatory or steroid drugs that may lessen post-chemo inflammation, limit brain damage and thereby improve quality of life. For study details:-Click Here!