Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Medicine

Department

Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. Greg A. Gerhardt

Abstract

Glutamate, the predominant excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, is involved in almost all aspects of neurological function including cognition, motor function, memory, learning, decision making, and neuronal plasticity. For normal neurological function, glutamate signaling must be properly regulated. Disrupted glutamate regulation plays a pivotal role in the acute pathophysiology of traumatic brain injury (TBI), disrupting neuronal signaling, initiating secondary injury cascades, and producing excitotoxicity. Increases in extracellular glutamate have been correlated with unfavorable outcomes in TBI survivors, emphasizing the importance of glutamate regulation.

The aim of this thesis was to examine disruptions in the regulation of extracellular glutamate after experimental TBI. In these studies, we used glutamate-sensitive microelectrode arrays (MEAs) to examine the regulation of extracellular glutamate two days after diffuse brain injury. First, we examined which brain regions were vulnerable to post-traumatic increases in extracellular glutamate. We detected significant increases in extracellular glutamate in the dentate gyrus and striatum, which correlated to the severity of brain injury. Second, we examined the regulation of extracellular glutamate by neurons and glia to determine the mechanisms responsible for post-traumatic increases in extracellular glutamate. In the striatum of brain-injured rats, we detected significant disruptions in release of glutamate by neurons and significant decreases in the removal of glutamate from the extracellular space by glia. Third, we examined if a novel therapeutic strategy, a viral-vector mediated gene delivery approach, could improve the regulation of extracellular glutamate. Infusion of an adeno-associated virus expressing a glutamate transporter into the rat striatum produced significant improvements in glutamate clearance, identifying a novel strategy to reduce excitotoxicity. Lastly, we examined the translational potential of MEAs as novel neuromonitoring device for clinical TBI research. Overall, these studies have demonstrated the translational potential of MEAs to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of TBI survivors.

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