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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Sep 10;110(37):15097-102. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1306884110. Epub 2013 Aug 27.

Neurokinin3 receptor as a target to predict and improve learning and memory in the aged organism.

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Center for Behavioral Neuroscience, Institute of Experimental Psychology, University of Düsseldorf, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Impaired learning and memory performance is often found in aging as an early sign of dementia. It is associated with neuronal loss and reduced functioning of cholinergic networks. Here we present evidence that the neurokinin3 receptors (NK3-R) and their influence on acetylcholine (ACh) release may represent a crucial mechanism that underlies age-related deficits in learning and memory. Repeated pharmacological stimulation of NK3-R in aged rats was found to improve learning in the water maze and in object-place recognition. This treatment also enhanced in vivo acetylcholinergic activity in the frontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala but reduced NK3-R mRNA expression in the hippocampus. Furthermore, NK3-R agonism incurred a significantly higher increase in ACh levels in aged animals that showed superior learning than in those that were most deficient in learning. Our findings suggest that the induced activation of ACh, rather than basal ACh activity, is associated with superior learning in the aged. To test whether natural variation in NK3-R function also determines learning and memory performance in aged humans, we investigated 209 elderly patients with cognitive impairments. We found that of the 15 analyzed single single-nucleotide ploymorphism (SNPs) of the NK3-R-coding gene, TACR3, the rs2765 SNP predicted the degree of impairment of learning and memory in these patients. This relationship could be partially explained by a reduced right hippocampus volume in a subsample of 111 tested dementia patients. These data indicate the NK3-R as an important target to predict and improve learning and memory performance in the aged organism.


in vivo microdialysis; senktide

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