Summary: The neuropeptide somatostatin improves visual processing and cognitive behaviors by reducing excitatory inputs to parvalbumin-positive interneurons in mice.
Researchers have confirmed that neuropeptide somatostatin can improve cognitive function in the brain. A research group of Professor Seung-Hee Lee from the Department of Biological Sciences at KAIST found that the application of neuropeptide somatostatin improves visual processing and cognitive behaviors by reducing excitatory inputs to parvalbumin-positive interneurons in the cortex.
This study, reported at Science Advances on April 22nd (EST), sheds a new light on the therapeutics of neurodegenerative diseases. According to a recent study in Korea, one in ten seniors over 65 is experiencing dementia-related symptoms in their daily lives such like memory loss, cognitive decline, and motion function disorders. Professor Lee believes that somatostatin treatment can be directly applied to the recovery of cognitive functions in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Professor Lee started this study noting the fact that the level of somatostatin expression was dramatically decreased in the cerebral cortex and cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s disease patients
Somatostatin-expressing neurons in the cortex are known to exert the dendritic inhibition of pyramidal neurons via GABAergic transmission. Previous studies focused on their inhibitory effects on cortical circuits, but somatostatin-expressing neurons can co-release somatostatin upon activation. Despite the abundant expression of somatostatin and its receptors in the cerebral cortex, it was not known if somatostatin could modulate cognitive processing in the cortex.
The research team demonstrated that the somatostatin treatment into the cerebral cortex could enhance visual processing and cognitive behaviors in mice. The research team combined behaviors, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, and electron microscopy techniques to reveal how the activation of somatostatin receptors in vivo enhanced the ability of visual recognition in animals. Interestingly, somatostatin release can reduce excitatory synaptic transmission to another subtype of GABAergic interneurons, parvalbumin (PV)-expressing neurons.
As somatostatin is a stable and safe neuropeptide expressed naturally in the mammalian brain, it was safe to be injected into the cortex and cerebrospinal fluid, showing a potential application to drug development for curing cognitive disorders in humans.
Professor Lee said, “Our research confirmed the key role of the neuropeptide SST in modulating cortical function and enhancing cognitive ability in the mammalian brain. I hope new drugs can be developed based on the function of somatostatin to treat cognitive disabilities in many patients suffering from neurological disorders.”
Funding: This study was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea.
About this neuroscience research article
Source: KAIST Media Contacts: Younghye Cho – KAIST Image Source: The image is in credited to Professor Seung-Hee Lee, KAIST.
Somatostatin enhances visual processing and perception by suppressing excitatory inputs to parvalbumin-positive interneurons in V1
Somatostatin (SST) is a neuropeptide expressed in a major subtype of GABAergic interneurons in the cortex. Despite abundant expression of SST and its receptors, their modulatory function in cortical processing remains unclear. Here, we found that SST application in the primary visual cortex (V1) improves visual discrimination in freely moving mice and enhances orientation selectivity of V1 neurons. We also found that SST reduced excitatory synaptic transmission to parvalbumin-positive (PV+) fast-spiking interneurons but not to regular-spiking neurons. Last, using serial block-face scanning electron microscopy (SBEM), we found that axons of SST+ neurons in V1 often contact other axons that exhibit excitatory synapses onto the soma and proximal dendrites of the PV+ neuron. Collectively, our results demonstrate that the neuropeptide SST improves visual perception by enhancing visual gain of V1 neurons via a reduction in excitatory synaptic transmission to PV+ inhibitory neurons.