Journal of neurotrauma

Acetylcholinesterase inhibition interacts with training to reverse spatial learning deficits after cortical impact injury.

PMID 22738336


Cholinergic mechanisms are known to play a key role in cognitive functions that are profoundly altered in traumatic brain injury (TBI). The present investigation was designed to test the ability of continuous administration, starting at the time of injury, of physostigmine (PHY), an acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitor that crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB), to ameliorate the alterations of learning and memory induced by cerebral cortex impact injury in rats under isoflurane anesthesia. Learning and memory were assessed with the Morris water maze implemented during days 7-11 (WM1), and days 21-25 post-TBI (WM2), with four trials per day for 3 days, followed by target reversal and 2 additional days of training. These groups of Sprague-Dawley male rats were used: TBI treated with PHY at 3.2 μmol/kg/day (TBI-PHY3.2), or 6.4 μmol/kg/day (TBI-PHY6.4), by subcutaneous osmotic pumps, or TBI and no injury (Sham) treated with saline. AChE activity was measured in brain tissue samples of non-traumatized animals that received PHY at the doses used in the TBI animals. In WM1 tests, PHY3.2 improved learning within sessions, but not between sessions, in the recall of the target position, while PHY6.4 had no significant effects. In WM2 tests, PHY improved within- and between-sessions performance at both dose levels. We found that continuous AChE inhibition interacted with repeated training on the water maze task to completely reverse the deficits seen in learning and memory induced by TBI. The PHY treatment also reduced the amount of brain tissue loss as measured using cresyl violet staining.