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

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is an area of the brain that is critically important for learning, memory, organization, and integration, and PFC dysfunction has been associated with pathologies including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and drug addiction. However, there exists a paucity of information regarding neurochemical signaling in the distinct sub-regions of the PFC, particularly the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). The mPFC receives glutamatergic input from a number of brain areas, and functional glutamate signaling is essential for normal cognitive processes. To further understand glutamate neurotransmission, in vivo measurements of glutamate were performed in the cingulate cortex, prelimbic cortex, and infralimbic cortex of anesthetized rats using enzyme-based microelectrode array technology. Measurements of acetylcholine were also performed to examine the relationship between glutamate and other neurotransmitters in the mPFC. The described studies revealed a homogeneity of glutamate and acetylcholine signaling in the mPFC sub-regions, indicating somewhat uniform tonic and phasic levels of these two transmitters. In the infralimbic mPFC of awake freely-moving rats, rapid, phasic glutamate signaling events, termed “transients” were observed and in vivo glutamate signaling was successfully monitored over 24 hour time periods.

The effects of methylphenidate (MPH), a stimulant medication with abuse potential that is used in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, were measured in mPFC sub-regions of anesthetized rats. Data revealed similar tonic and phasic glutamate levels between chronic MPH-treated rats and controls in all sub-regions. Locomotor data from the chronic treatment period supported the behavioral sensitization effects of multiple MPH treatments. Significant effects were observed in locomotor activity, resting levels of glutamate, and glutamate uptake rates in the infralimbic mPFC of awake, freely-moving animals that received chronic MPH treatment.

Taken together, this body of work characterizes glutamate signaling in the rat mPFC to a degree never before reported, and serves to report for the first time the effects of MPH on glutamate signaling in the mPFC.

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