Nutrition, Neurogenesis and Mental Health Laboratory
Principal Investigator & Lecturer in Neural Stem Cell Research
Research over the last 5 years has firmly established that learning and memory abilities, as well as mood can be influenced by diet. Although the mechanisms by which diet modulates mental health are not well understood. One of the brain structure associated with learning and memory as well as mood is the hippocampus. Interestingly, the hippocampus is one of the two structures in the adult brain where the formation of newborn neurons (or neurogenesis) persists. The level of neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus has been linked directly to cognition and mood. Therefore modulation of adult hippocampal neurogenesis by diet emerges as a possible mechanism by which nutrition impacts on mental health. In the Thuret Lab, we are studying the mechanisms by which diet modulates adult hippoacampal neurogenesis and impact on cognition and mood.
There is much to learn about the effects of food intake on the cellular and molecular biology of the nervous system. This area of investigation is new and needs attention because a better understanding of the neurological mechanisms by which nutrition affect mental health may lead to novel dietary approaches for disease prevention and healthier ageing.
In the Thuret lab we investigate the molecular mechanisms governing neurogenesis by using human hippocampal cell lines and we use the mouse as animal model to study cognition and mood. We perform a wide range of molecular biology and histology techniques with both in vivo and in vitro models.
We are currently studying the molecular mechanisms (including epigenetic changes and modification in microRNA expression) by which meal frequency impacts on adult hippocampal neurogenesis and subsequently affects cognition and mood.
We are also investigating if certain bioactives previously shown to have beneficial effect on cognition and mood can regulate adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Furthermore we are studying if their effect on cognition and mood is mediated by changes in neurogenesis.
We have recenlty developed a in vitro model of stress using human hippocampal progenitor cells. We use this model to study the preventive and treatment mode of action of compounds on decreased neurogenesis induced by stress.
Fig.1: Schematic representation of the sagittal view of a rodent brain highlighting the two neurogenic zones of the adult mammalian brain: The subventricular zone (SVZ) of the lateral ventricles and the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus (DG) in the hippocampus. Neurons generated in the SVZ migrate through the rostral migratory stream (RMS) and are incorporated into the olfactory bulb. The hippocampal region contained in the black square is enlarged showing (1) neural progenitor cells in the in the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus proliferating, (2) migrating into the granule cell layer and (3) maturing into new granule neurons, integrating into the hippocampal circuitry by receiving inputs from the entorhinal cortex, and extend projections into the CA3 (Stangl & Thuret, 2009).
Fig.2: Overview of physiological and environmental modulation of Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis and its impact on Learning & Memory abilities and Mood. The doted squares contain the enlarged hippocampus. The red dots symbolize newborn neurons in the dentate gyrus (DG) (Stangl & Thuret, 2009).
Detection of proliferation and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus of C57BL/6 mice. Confocal images of dividing BrdU-positive cells in the dentate gyrus. Sagittal sections were imuunostained and double labeled for BrdU (green) and the neuronal marker NeuN (red). New-born/dividing neurons appear in yellow. d, e, f are higher magnification of the boxed area in a, b, c respectively (From Thuret et. al, 2009)
Morris water Maze test. When released, the mouse swims around the pool in search of an exit while various parameters are recorded, including the time spent in each quadrant of the pool, the time taken to reach the platform, and total distance traveled. The mouse’s escape from the water reinforces its desire to quickly find the platform, and on subsequent trials (with the platform in the same position) the mouse is able to locate the platform more rapidly. This improvement in performance occurs because the rat has learned where the hidden platform is located relative to the conspicuous visual cues.