News Release

Immune cells destroy healthy brain connections, diminish cognitive function in obese mice

Obesity may drive microglia into a synapse-eating frenzy that leads to cognitive impairment

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

Microglia, Synapses, and Obesity

image: Obesity leads to cognitive impairment by activating microglial cells, which consume otherwise functional synapses in the hippocampus, according to a study of male mice published in <i>JNeurosci</i>. The research suggests that microglia may be a potential therapeutic target for one of the lesser known effects of this global health epidemic on the brain. view more 

Credit: Cope at al., <i>JNeurosci</i> (2018)

Obesity leads to cognitive impairment by activating microglial cells, which consume otherwise functional synapses in the hippocampus, according to a study of male mice published in JNeurosci. The research suggests that microglia may be a potential therapeutic target for one of the lesser known effects of this global health epidemic on the brain.

Nearly two billion adults worldwide are overweight, more than 600 million of whom are obese. In addition to increasing risk of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, obesity is also a known risk factor for cognitive disorders including Alzheimer's disease. The cellular mechanisms that contribute to cognitive decline in obesity, however, are not well understood.

Elise Cope and colleagues replicated previous research by demonstrating diet-induced obesity in mice impairs performance on cognitive tasks dependent on the hippocampus and results in loss of dendritic spines -- the neuronal protrusions that receive signals from other cells -- and activates microglia. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches to block microglial activity, the researchers established microglia are causally linked to obesity-induced dendritic spine loss and cognitive decline. The results suggest obesity may drive microglia into a synapse-eating frenzy that contributes to the cognitive deficits observed in this condition.

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Article: Microglia play an active role in obesity-associated cognitive decline
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0789-18.2018
Corresponding author: Elise Cope (Princeton University, NJ, USA), ecope@princeton.edu

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.


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