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|Title: ||The Synaptic Role of Neuronal Calcium Sensor 1 in Dentate Gyrus Plasticity, Curiosity and Spatial Memory|
|Authors: ||Saab, Bechara|
|Advisor: ||Roder, John C.|
|Department: ||Molecular and Medical Genetics|
|Issue Date: ||20-May-2010|
|Abstract: ||Only 200 years ago, virtually nothing was known about the biological workings of the mind. Today, there is a deep (though far from complete) understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the encoding of memory, arguably the most fundamental aspect of a cognitive being. In this thesis, I describe experiments that help complete this understanding and identify the very first molecules underlying curiosity.
By using an inducible rtTA2-M2 double transgenic system to selectively overexpress the calcium sensor Ncs1 in the adult murine dentate gyrus, I created an animal with facilitated long-term potentiation, enhanced rapid acquisition of spatial memory and greater curiosity. These phenotypes are reversed by direct infusion of a small membrane-permeant interfering peptide designed to block complex formation between NCS-1 and Dopamine type-2 receptors (D2 receptors). Pharmacological antagonism of D2 receptors also attenuates plasticity in wild-type mice and direct antagonism of D2 receptors in the dentate of cannulized wild-type mice prevents spatial memory formation. Conversely, application of a dominant negative NCS-1 peptide reduces synaptic transmission in the dentate gyrus and impairs spatial fear learning.
Far less understood than the mechanisms governing learning and memory, are the mechanisms used by the brain to generate curiosity. Strikingly, Ncs1 overexpressing mice also demonstrate increased exploratory behaviours in a variety of novel, non-fearful environments. But they do not explore novel fearful environments any more than their littermate controls. I argue that the specificity of this phenotype represents an effect on curiosity, thereby identifying NCS-1 and D2 receptors as the first known regulators of this primordial mental state.
I propose that the generation of curiosity is a fundamental feature of the nervous system and is upstream of learning and cognition. As such, molecular cascades involved in curiosity likely also play roles in mental illnesses. To investigate this theory, I generated an NCS-1 point mutant mouse line. NCS-1P144S/P144S mice show endophenotypes of schizophrenia and depression, supporting the link between curiosity and mental illness. I integrate my findings with the current literature and propose a means to investigate the role of NCS-1 in humans with mental illnesses.|
|Appears in Collections:||Doctoral|
Department of Molecular Genetics - Doctoral theses
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