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Enhanced human brain associative plasticity in Costello syndrome

Authors


  • G. Zampino and V. Di Lazzaro contributed equally to the paper

Corresponding author V. Di Lazzaro: Istituto di Neurologia, Università Cattolica, L.go A. Gemelli 8, 00168 Rome, Italy.  Email: vdilazzaro@rm.unicatt.it

Abstract

Costello syndrome (CS) is a rare multiple congenital anomaly disorder which is caused by germline mutations in the v-Ha-ras Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homologue (HRAS) proto-oncogene. Experimental data suggest perturbing effects of the mutated protein on the functional and structural organization of networks of cerebral cortex and on the activity-dependent strengthening of synaptic transmission known as long term potentiation (LTP). In five patients with molecularly proven diagnosis of CS and in a group of 13 age-matched control subjects we investigated activity-dependent synaptic plasticity. To this end, we used a paired associative stimulation (PAS) protocol, in which left ulnar nerve stimuli were followed by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) pulses to right cortical hand area, and recorded motor evoked potentials (MEPs) by single pulse TMS from left first dorsal interosseus (FDI) muscle before and after PAS. In 4 out of 5 CS patients and in a subgroup of nine control subjects we also evaluated the time course and the topographical specificity of PAS after-effects. In these two subgroups, MEPs were measured before, immediately after and 30 min after PAS in the left FDI and left abductor pollicis brevis (APB). While the PAS protocol led to a 65% increase of the FDI MEP amplitude in controls, the LTP-like phenomenon was significantly more pronounced in CS patients, with motor responses increased by 230%. In addition, CS patients showed a similar MEP increase in both muscles while control subjects showed a slight increase in APB and only immediately after PAS. We hypothesize that the extremely enhanced PAS after-effects could be due to the influence of HRAS activity on the susceptibility of synapses to undergo LTP.

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