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Inbred mouse strains differ in multiple hippocampal activity traits

Jansen, R., Linkenkaer-Hansen, K., Heistek, T., Timmerman, J., Mansvelder, H. D., Brussaard, A. B., De Gunst, M., and Van Ooyen, A. (2009). Eur. J. Neuroscience 30: 1092-1100. [Full text: PDF]


A major challenge in neuroscience is to identify genes that influence specific behaviors and to understand the intermediary neuronal mechanisms. One approach is to identify so-called endophenotypes at different levels of neuronal organization from synapse to brain activity. An endophenotype is a quantitative trait that is closer to the gene action than behavior, and potentially a marker of neuronal mechanisms underlying behavior.

Hippocampal activity and, in particular, hippocampal oscillations have been suggested to underlie various cognitive and motor functions. To identify quantitative traits that are potentially useful for identifying genes influencing hippocampal activity, we measured gamma oscillations and spontaneous activity in acute hippocampal slices from eight inbred mouse strains under three experimental conditions. We estimated the heritability of more than 200 quantitative traits derived from this activity.

We observed significant differences between the different mouse strains, particularly in the amplitude of the activity and the correlation between activities in different hippocampal subregions. Interestingly, these traits had a low genetic correlation between the three experimental conditions, which suggests that different genetic components influence the activity in different conditions. Our findings show that several traits of hippocampal gamma oscillations and spontaneous activity are heritable and could thus be potentially useful in gene-finding strategies based on endophenotypes.

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