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Alzheimers Res Ther. 2018 Oct 10;10(1):105. doi: 10.1186/s13195-018-0433-4.

Neurophysiological signals as predictive translational biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease treatment: effects of donepezil on neuronal network oscillations in TgF344-AD rats.

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Translational Neuropharmacology, Department of Comparative Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 310 Cedar St, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.
Translational Neuropharmacology, Department of Comparative Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 310 Cedar St, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.



Translational research in Alzheimer's disease (AD) pathology provides evidence that accumulation of amyloid-β and hyperphosphorylated tau, neuropathological hallmarks of AD, is associated with complex disturbances in synaptic and neuronal function leading to oscillatory abnormalities in the neuronal networks that support memory and cognition. Accordingly, our recent study on transgenic TgF344-AD rats modeling AD showed an age-dependent reduction of stimulation-induced oscillations in the hippocampus, and disrupted long-range connectivity together with enhanced neuronal excitability in the cortex, reflected in greatly increased expression of high-voltage spindles, an epileptic absence seizure-like activity. To better understand the translational value of observed oscillatory abnormalities in these rats, we examine here the effects of donepezil, an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor clinically approved for AD treatment.


Brainstem nucleus pontis oralis stimulation-induced hippocampal oscillations were recorded under urethane anesthesia in adult (6-month-old) and aged (12-month-old) TgF344-AD and wild-type rats. Spontaneous cortical activity was monitored in a cohort of freely behaving aged rats implanted with frontal and occipital cortical electroencephalography (EEG) electrodes.


Subcutaneous administration of donepezil significantly augmented stimulation-induced hippocampal theta oscillation in aged wild-type rats and both adult and aged TgF344-AD rats, which have been previously shown to have diminished response to nucleus pontis oralis stimulation. Moreover, in adult TgF344-AD rats, donepezil also significantly increased theta phase-gamma amplitude coupling in the hippocampus during stimulation. However, neither of these effects were significantly changed in adult wild-type rats. Under freely behaving conditions, donepezil treatment had the opposite effect on cortical oscillatory connectivity in TgF344-AD and wild-type rats, and it reduced the occurrence of high-voltage spindle activity in TgF344-AD rats.


Together, these results imply that pharmacologically enhancing cholinergic tone with donepezil could partially reverse oscillatory abnormalities in TgF344-AD rats, which is in line with its clinical effectiveness in AD patients. Therefore, our study suggests good translational opportunities for these neurophysiological signals recorded in TgF344-AD rats, and their application could be considered in drug discovery efforts for developing therapies with disease-modifying potential.


Alzheimer’s disease; Donepezil; High-voltage spindles; Hippocampus; Phase-amplitude coupling; TgF344-AD rats; Theta

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