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Resting-state functional MRI (rsfMRI) has recently revealed correlated signals in the spinal cord horns of monkeys and humans. However, the interpretation of these rsfMRI correlations as indicators of functional connectivity in the spinal cord remains unclear. Here, we recorded stimulus-evoked and spontaneous spiking activity and local field potentials (LFPs) from monkey spinal cord in order to validate fMRI measures. We found that both BOLD and electrophysiological signals elicited by tactile stimulation co-localized to the ipsilateral dorsal horn. Temporal profiles of stimulus-evoked BOLD signals covaried with LFP and multiunit spiking in a similar way to those observed in the brain. Functional connectivity of dorsal horns exhibited a U-shaped profile along the dorsal-intermediate-ventral axis. Overall, these results suggest that there is an intrinsic functional architecture within the gray matter of a single spinal segment, and that rsfMRI signals at high field directly reflect this underlying spontaneous neuronal activity.
Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been used to study human brain function for over two decades, but only recently has this technique been successfully translated to the human spinal cord. The spinal cord is structurally and functionally unique, so resting state fMRI methods developed and optimized for the brain may not be appropriate when applied to the cord. This report therefore investigates the relative impact of different acquisition and processing choices (including run length, echo time, and bandpass filter width) on the detectability of resting state spinal cord networks at 3T. Our results suggest that frequencies beyond 0.08 Hz should be included in resting state analyses, a run length of ~8-12 mins is appropriate for reliable detection of the ventral (motor) network, and longer echo times - yet still shorter than values typically used for fMRI in the brain - may increase the detectability of the dorsal (sensory) network. Further studies are required to more fully understand and interpret the nature of resting state spinal cord networks in health and in disease, and the protocols described in this report are designed to assist such studies.
Adrenal chromaffin cells comprise the neuroendocrine arm of the sympathetic nervous system and secrete catecholamines to coordinate the appropriate stress response. Deletion of the serotonin (5-HT) transporter (SERT) gene in mice (SERT mice) or pharmacological block of SERT function in rodents and humans augments this sympathoadrenal stress response (epinephrine secretion). The prevailing assumption is that loss of CNS SERT alters central drive to the peripheral sympathetic nervous system. Adrenal chromaffin cells also prominently express SERT where it might coordinate accumulation of 5-HT for reuse in the autocrine control of stress-evoked catecholamine secretion. To help test this hypothesis, we have generated a novel mouse model with selective excision of SERT in the peripheral sympathetic nervous system (SERT), generated by crossing floxed SERT mice with tyrosine hydroxylase Cre driver mice. SERT expression, assessed by western blot, was abolished in the adrenal gland but not perturbed in the CNS of SERT mice. SERT-mediated [H] 5-HT uptake was unaltered in midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord synaptosomes, confirming transporter function was intact in the CNS. Endogenous midbrain and whole blood 5-HT homeostasis was unperturbed in SERT mice, contrasting with the depleted 5-HT content in SERT mice. Selective SERT excision reduced adrenal gland 5-HT content by ≈ 50% in SERT mice but had no effect on adrenal catecholamine content. This novel model confirms that SERT expressed in adrenal chromaffin cells is essential for maintaining wild-type levels of 5-HT and provides a powerful tool to help dissect the role of SERT in the sympathetic stress response.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Patients with multiple sclerosis present with focal lesions throughout the spinal cord. There is a clinical need for non-invasive measurements of spinal cord activity and functional organization in multiple sclerosis, given the cord's critical role in the disease. Recent reports of spontaneous blood oxygenation level-dependent fluctuations in the spinal cord using functional MRI suggest that, like the brain, cord activity at rest is organized into distinct, synchronized functional networks among grey matter regions, likely related to motor and sensory systems. Previous studies looking at stimulus-evoked activity in the spinal cord of patients with multiple sclerosis have demonstrated increased levels of activation as well as a more bilateral distribution of activity compared to controls. Functional connectivity studies of brain networks in multiple sclerosis have revealed widespread alterations, which may take on a dynamic trajectory over the course of the disease, with compensatory increases in connectivity followed by decreases associated with structural damage. We build upon this literature by examining functional connectivity in the spinal cord of patients with multiple sclerosis. Using ultra-high field 7 T imaging along with processing strategies for robust spinal cord functional MRI and lesion identification, the present study assessed functional connectivity within cervical cord grey matter of patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (n = 22) compared to a large sample of healthy controls (n = 56). Patient anatomical images were rated for lesions by three independent raters, with consensus ratings revealing 19 of 22 patients presented with lesions somewhere in the imaged volume. Linear mixed models were used to assess effects of lesion location on functional connectivity. Analysis in control subjects demonstrated a robust pattern of connectivity among ventral grey matter regions as well as a distinct network among dorsal regions. A gender effect was also observed in controls whereby females demonstrated higher ventral network connectivity. Wilcoxon rank-sum tests detected no differences in average connectivity or power of low frequency fluctuations in patients compared to controls. The presence of lesions was, however, associated with local alterations in connectivity with differential effects depending on columnar location. The patient results suggest that spinal cord functional networks are generally intact in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis but that lesions are associated with focal abnormalities in intrinsic connectivity. These findings are discussed in light of the current literature on spinal cord functional MRI and the potential neurological underpinnings.
Spinal interneurons are critical modulators of motor circuit function. In the dorsal spinal cord, a set of interneurons called GABApre presynaptically inhibits proprioceptive sensory afferent terminals, thus negatively regulating sensory-motor signaling. Although deficits in presynaptic inhibition have been inferred in human motor diseases, including dystonia, it remains unclear whether GABApre circuit components are altered in these conditions. Here, we use developmental timing to show that GABApre neurons are a late Ptf1a-expressing subclass and localize to the intermediate spinal cord. Using a microarray screen to identify genes expressed in this intermediate population, we find the kelch-like family member Klhl14, implicated in dystonia through its direct binding with torsion-dystonia-related protein Tor1a. Furthermore, in Tor1a mutant mice in which Klhl14 and Tor1a binding is disrupted, formation of GABApre sensory afferent synapses is impaired. Our findings suggest a potential contribution of GABApre neurons to the deficits in presynaptic inhibition observed in dystonia.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Immobilization, as a result of motor-complete spinal cord injury (SCI), is associated with severe osteoporosis. Whether parathyroid hormone (PTH) administration would reduce bone loss after SCI remains unclear. Thus, female mice underwent sham or surgery to produce complete spinal cord transection. PTH (80 g/kg) or vehicle was injected subcutaneously (SC) daily starting on the day of surgery and continued for 35 days. Isolated tibias and femurs were examined by microcomputed tomography scanning (micro-CT) and histology and serum markers of bone turnover were measured. Micro-CT analysis of tibial metaphysis revealed that the SCI-vehicle animals exhibited 49% reduction in fractional trabecular bone volume and 18% in trabecular thickness compared to sham-vehicle controls. SCI-vehicle animals also had 15% lower femoral cortical thickness and 16% higher cortical porosity than sham-vehicle counterparts. Interestingly, PTH administration to SCI animals restored 78% of bone volume, increased connectivity to 366%, and lowered structure model index by 10% compared to sham-vehicle animals. PTH further favorably attenuated femoral cortical bone loss to 5% and prevented the SCI-associated cortical porosity. Histomorphometry evaluation of femurs of SCI-vehicle animals demonstrated a marked 49% and 38% decline in osteoblast and osteoclast number, respectively, and 35% reduction in bone formation rate. In contrast, SCI-PTH animals showed preserved osteoblast and osteoclast numbers and enhanced bone formation rate. Furthermore, SCI-PTH animals had higher levels of bone formation and resorption markers than either SCI- or sham-vehicle groups. Collectively, these findings suggest that intermittent PTH receptor activation is an effective therapeutic strategy to preserve bone integrity after severe immobilization.
© 2017 The Authors. Physiological Reports published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of The Physiological Society and the American Physiological Society.
Spinal cord (SC) damage is linked to clinical deficits in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), however, conventional MRI methods are not specific to the underlying macromolecular tissue changes that may precede overt lesion detection. Single-point quantitative magnetization transfer (qMT) is a method that can provide high-resolution indices sensitive to underlying macromolecular composition in a clinically feasible scan time by reducing the number of MT-weighted acquisitions and utilizing a two-pool model constrained by empirically determined constants. As the single-point qMT method relies on a priori constraints, it has not been employed extensively in patients, where these constraints may vary, and thus, the biases inherent in this model have not been evaluated in a patient cohort. We, therefore, addressed the potential biases in the single point qMT model by acquiring qMT measurements in the cervical SC in patient and control cohorts and evaluated the differences between the control and patient-derived qMT constraints (k, TR, and T) for the single point model. We determined that the macromolecular to free pool size ratio (PSR) differences between the control and patient-derived constraints are not significant (p > 0.149 in all cases). Additionally, the derived PSR for each cohort was compared, and we reported that the white matter PSR in healthy volunteers is significantly different from lesions (p < 0.005) and normal appearing white matter (p < 0.02) in all cases. The single point qMT method is thus a valuable method to quantitatively estimate white matter pathology in MS in a clinically feasible scan time.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the human spinal cord at 7T has been demonstrated by a handful of research sites worldwide, and the spinal cord remains one of the areas in which higher fields and resolution could have high impact. The small diameter of the cord (∼1 cm) necessitates high spatial resolution to minimize partial volume effects between gray and white matter, and so MRI of the cord can greatly benefit from increased signal-to-noise ratio and contrasts at ultra-high field (UHF). Herein we review the current state of UHF spinal cord imaging. Technical challenges to successful UHF spinal cord MRI include radiofrequency (B) nonuniformities and a general lack of optimized radiofrequency coils, amplified physiological noise, and an absence of methods for robust B shimming along the cord to mitigate image distortions and signal losses. Numerous solutions to address these challenges have been and are continuing to be explored, and include novel approaches for signal excitation and acquisition, dynamic shimming and specialized shim coils, and acquisitions with increased coverage or optimal slice angulations.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Loss-of-function mutations in the potassium-chloride cotransporter KCC3 lead to Andermann syndrome, a severe sensorimotor neuropathy characterized by areflexia, amyotrophy and locomotor abnormalities. The molecular events responsible for axonal loss remain poorly understood. Here, we establish that global or neuron-specific KCC3 loss-of-function in mice leads to early neuromuscular junction (NMJ) abnormalities and muscular atrophy that are consistent with the pre-synaptic neurotransmission defects observed in patients. KCC3 depletion does not modify chloride handling, but promotes an abnormal electrical activity among primary motoneurons and mislocalization of Na/K-ATPase α1 in spinal cord motoneurons. Moreover, the activity-targeting drug carbamazepine restores Na/K-ATPase α1 localization and reduces NMJ denervation in Slc12a6 mice. We here propose that abnormal motoneuron electrical activity contributes to the peripheral neuropathy observed in Andermann syndrome.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.