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Keywords:

  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • cofactors;
  • glucocorticoids;
  • mini-stroke;
  • necrosis;
  • spatial memory;
  • stress

Abstract

This series of experiments represents a test of a theory concerning the etiology of age-related cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). The theory suggests that multiple combinations of cofactors produce variants of these disorders. Two factors that have been linked to the etiology of AD, that are of interest to our laboratories, are stress and vascular strokes. The current experiments tested the cofactors theory by evaluating the neuronal and functional effects of localized subthreshold strokes in the hippocampus of different groups of rats. One group experienced episodes of stress prior to stroke induction while the other did not. The results showed that a low dose of endothelin-1 (ET-1) injected into the hippocampus of groups of rats that had previously experienced stressful episodes showed enhanced hippocampal cell death and neurodegeneration that did not occur in the rats that did not experience stress prior to stroke induction. The results also showed that the stressed rats given subthreshold ET-1 injections into the hippocampus showed hippocampal-based learning and memory deficits that were not present in the non-stressed group given the same injections. This pattern of results suggests that individuals that are under stress are more vulnerable to insults to the hippocampus that have little effect on an individual that is not stressed. This vulnerability might be due to the actions of stress hormones, like the glucocorticoids, that have been previously shown to endanger hippocampal neurons.