Abstract: Anesthetic neurotoxicity has been a hot topic in anesthesia for the past decade. It is of special interest to pediatric anesthesiologists. A subgroup of children potentially at greater risk for anesthetic neurotoxicity, based on a prolonged anesthetic exposure early in development, are those children receiving anesthesia for surgical repair of congenital heart disease. These children have a known risk of neurologic deficit after cardiopulmonary bypass for surgical repair of congenital heart disease. Yet, the type of anesthesia used has not been considered as a potential etiology for their neurologic deficits. These children not only receive prolonged anesthetic exposure during surgical repair, but also receive repeated anesthetic exposures during a critical period of brain development. Their propensity to abnormal brain development, as a result of congenital heart disease, may modify their risk of anesthetic neurotoxicity. This review article provides an overview of anesthetic neurotoxicity from the perspective of a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist and provides insight into basic science and clinical investigations as it relates to this unique group of children who have been studied over several decades for their risk of neurologic injury.
Abstract: The use of volatile anesthetics, a group of general anesthetics, is an exceedingly common practice. These anesthetics may have neuroprotective effects. Over the last decade, anesthetic induced neurotoxicity in pediatric populations has gained a certain notoriety based on pre-clinical cell and animal studies demonstrating that general anesthetics may induce neurotoxicity, including neuroapoptosis, neurodegeneration, and long-term neurocognitive and behavioral deficits. With hundreds of millions of people having surgery under general anesthesia worldwide, and roughly six million children annually in the U.S. alone, the importance of clearly defining toxic or protective effects of general anesthetics cannot be overstated. Yet, with our expanding body of knowledge, we have come to learn that perhaps not all volatile anesthetics have the same pharmacological profiles; certain ones may have a more favorable neurotoxic profile and may actually exhibit neuroprotection in specific populations and situations. Thus far, very few clinical studies exist, and have not yet been convincing enough to alter our practice. This review will provide an update on current data regarding volatile anesthetic induced neurotoxicity and neuroprotection in neonatal and infant populations. In addition, this paper will discuss ongoing studies and the trajectory of further research over the coming years.
Abstract: Hypoxia-ischemia (HI; reduction in blood/oxygen supply) is common in infants with serious birth complications, such as prolonged labor and cord prolapse, as well as in infants born prematurely (<37 weeks gestational age; GA). Most often, HI can lead to brain injury in the form of cortical and subcortical damage, as well as later cognitive/behavioral deficits. A common domain of impairment is working memory, which can be associated with heightened incidence of developmental disorders. To further characterize these clinical issues, the current investigation describes data from a rodent model of HI induced on postnatal (P)7, an age comparable to a term (GA 36–38) human. Specifically, we sought to assess working memory using an eight-arm radial water maze paradigm. Study 1 used a modified version of the paradigm, which requires a step-wise change in spatial memory via progressively more difficult tasks, as well as multiple daily trials for extra learning opportunity. Results were surprising and revealed a small HI deficit only for the final and most difficult condition, when a delay before test trial was introduced. Study 2 again used the modified radial arm maze, but presented the most difficult condition from the start, and only one daily test trial. Here, results were expected and revealed a robust and consistent HI deficit across all weeks. Combined results indicate that male HI rats can learn a difficult spatial working memory task if it is presented in a graded multi-trial format, but performance is poor and does not appear to remediate if the task is presented with high initial memory demand. Male HI rats in both studies displayed impulsive characteristics throughout testing evidenced as reduced choice latencies despite more errors. This aspect of behavioral results is consistent with impulsiveness as a core symptom of ADHD—a diagnosis common in children with HI insult. Overall findings suggest that task specific behavioral modifications are crucial to accommodating memory deficits in children suffering from cognitive impairments following neonatal HI.
Abstract: The phenomenon of “entry into awareness” is one of the most challenging puzzles in neuroscience. Research has shown how entry is influenced by processes that are “bottom-up” (e.g., stimulus salience, motion, novelty, incentive and emotional quality) and associated with working memory. Although consciousness is intimately related to action, action-based entry remains under-explored. We review research showing that action-related processing influences the nature of percepts already in conscious awareness and present three experiments that, using a “release-from-masking” technique, examine whether action plans can also influence that which enters awareness in the first place. The present data, though intriguing and consistent with previous research, are not definitive. The limitations and theoretical implications of the findings are discussed. We hope that these experiments will spur further investigation of this understudied topic.
Abstract: Transplantation of stem cells for the treatment of Huntington’s disease (HD) garnered much attention prior to the turn of the century. Several studies using mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have indicated that these cells have enormous therapeutic potential in HD and other disorders. Advantages of using MSCs for cell therapies include their ease of isolation, rapid propagation in culture, and favorable immunomodulatory profiles. However, the lack of consistent neuronal differentiation of transplanted MSCs has limited their therapeutic efficacy to slowing the progression of HD-like symptoms in animal models of HD. The use of MSCs which have been genetically altered to overexpress brain derived neurotrophic factor to enhance support of surviving cells in a rodent model of HD provides proof-of-principle that these cells may provide such prophylactic benefits. New techniques that may prove useful for cell replacement therapies in HD include the use of genetically altering fate-restricted cells to produce induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These iPSCs appear to have certain advantages over the use of embryonic stem cells, including being readily available, easy to obtain, less evidence of tumor formation, and a reduced immune response following their transplantation. Recently, transplants of iPSCs have shown to differentiate into region-specific neurons in an animal model of HD. The overall successes of using genetically altered stem cells for reducing neuropathological and behavioral deficits in rodent models of HD suggest that these approaches have considerable potential for clinical use. However, the choice of what type of genetically altered stem cell to use for transplantation is dependent on the stage of HD and whether the end-goal is preserving endogenous neurons in early-stage HD, or replacing the lost neurons in late-stage HD. This review will discuss the current state of stem cell technology for treating the different stages of HD and possible future directions for stem-cell therapy in HD.
Abstract: Sleep is important for neural plasticity, and plasticity underlies sleep-dependent memory consolidation. It is widely appreciated that protein synthesis plays an essential role in neural plasticity. Studies of sleep-dependent memory and sleep-dependent plasticity have begun to examine alterations in these functions in populations with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Such an approach acknowledges that disordered sleep may have functional consequences during wakefulness. Although neurodevelopmental disorders are not considered to be sleep disorders per se, recent data has revealed that sleep abnormalities are among the most prevalent and common symptoms and may contribute to the progression of these disorders. The main goal of this review is to highlight the role of disordered sleep in the pathology of neurodevelopmental disorders and to examine some potential mechanisms by which sleep-dependent plasticity may be altered. We will also briefly attempt to extend the same logic to the other end of the developmental spectrum and describe a potential role of disordered sleep in the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases. We conclude by discussing ongoing studies that might provide a more integrative approach to the study of sleep, plasticity, and neurodevelopmental disorders.