Main author: Tanja Mist Birgisdóttir
Institution or Company: Háskóli Íslands, University of Cambridge
Co-Authors, Institution or Company:
Ragnhildur Þóra Káradóttir, Læknadeild, Háskóla Íslands. Giulia Bonetto, Cambridge University. Sebastian Timmler, Cambridge University. Claudia Pama, Cambridge University. Linda Saksida, Western University. Tim Bussey, Western University.
Introduction: Until recently studies of neural circuit plasticity in the CNS focused almost exclusively on functional and structural changes of neuronal synapses. However, myelin plasticity has begun to emerge as a potential modulator of neuronal networks.
Myelin, produced by oligodendrocytes, is essential for normal brain function, as it provides fast signal transmission and promotes synchronization of neuronal signals. Oligodendrocytes differentiate from precursor cells (OPCs), which are distributed throughout the adult brain.
Recently it has been shown that new myelin is both generated in mice after learning a complex motor-sensory task, and essential to learn the task. However, whether myelination is initiated only during sensory-motor learning or whether it is a generic mechanism for all types of learning is important to identify to determine to what extent myelin plasticity occurs in adult animals.
Methods: To address whether myelin changes occur in non-motor learning tasks, we will perform the Trial-Unique Non-matching to Location (TUNL) task. TUNL assesses spatial working memory and pattern separation function using trial-unique locations on a touch-sensitive screen. Combining this behavioural task with our novel transgenic mouse models, we can fate map newly generated myelinated oligodendrocytes, and block production of new myelinating oligodendrocytes to determine if new myelin is formed with learning and its role in learning.
Results: Preliminary data indicate that new myelin is both formed and necessary for correct learning of the task. We have identified that new myelination is specific for areas needed for the task, highlighting the importance of myelin for learning and memory.
Conclusion: This project will take a significant step towards providing fundamental knowledge of myelination, which will open up novel therapeutic strategies for treating diseases, such as MS.