COLUMNARITY MEASUREMENTS AND CHANGES IN COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE IN THE AGING BRAIN

picture of Monica Xiong presenting his/her poster: COLUMNARITY MEASUREMENTS AND CHANGES IN COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE IN THE AGING BRAIN

Monica Xiong , J.P. Lister, C.A. Barnes

COLUMNARITY MEASUREMENTS AND CHANGES IN COGNITIVE PERFORMANCE IN THE AGING BRAIN

Neurons within vertical columns of the cerebral cortex of the brain have been observed to respond to the same stimulus (Mountcastle, 1957), but exact components of columnar functional units remain unknown.  We define microcolumnarity as the probability of neurons to align vertically through the cerebral cortex, and combining novel imaging technology and methods from statistical physics, we now have tools to measure columnarity in rodent brain tissue.  The aim of this study is to correlate cognitive performance with columnarity strength in aged and young rats.  The Morris water maze was employed to test spatial memory, an entorhinal cortex-dependent memory function known to decline with age.   Performance on this task will then be correlated with measurements of columnarity collected from brain sections containing this cortical region.  Preliminary results on columnarity show strong global density in aged rats, implying a decrease in neuropil across age.  If columnarity strength is indeed a predictor of cognitive performance, then preservation of this feature may be critical for maintaining healthy brain function in aging.

This research is supported by HHMI 52005889 and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.

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