Traumatic brain injury (TBI) results in a progressive degeneration of neural circuits in the brain. The long-term goals of our research are to understand how the neural circuit alterations that accompany TBI result in the concomitant decline in cognitive and mental abilities. The primary objective of this proposal is to characterize alterations to the layer 5 corticothalamic versus layer 2/3 corticocortical projections in a mouse model of TBI. The layer 5 corticothalamic pathway supports an important, yet largely neglected, route for information flow in the forebrain that is critical for normal cognitive processes. The central hypothesis is that the layer 5 corticothalamic pathway is altered later than the layer 2/3 corticocortical pathways during the progression of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) following TBI. This is expected to result in changes to functional connectivity in the forebrain and underlie the progression of cognitive deficits following TBI. Several neuroanatomical and neurophysiological features of these pathways have been identified, which forms the basis for the proposed investigation.
The specific aims of this project are to characterize the alterations to the layer 5 corticothalamic versus layer 2/3 corticocortical pathways in a mouse model of TBI by examining: 1) changes to the neuroanatomical connections of the layer 5 and layer 2/3 neurons and 2) alterations to neurophysiological responses in higher-order thalamic nuclei and cortical areas mediated by activation of pathways from these layers. The proposed experiments are expected to identify the changes to forebrain functional connectivity mediated by these different pathways and guide our future investigations aimed at directly linking alterations to these pathways with the cognitive deficits experienced following TBI and ultimately restoring normal behavior in this model system. These experiments will have a positive impact by illuminating the potentially important role of the layer 5 corticothalamic pathways in the condition, which will lead to enhanced diagnostics and prospective treatments for this and related neurodegenerative conditions.
This study is relevant to public health since it will broaden our knowledge and perspective of the role of alterations to the layer 5 corticothalamic and layer 2/3 corticocortical pathways following traumatic brain injury and provides a foundation for the further exploration of cognitive deficits associated with traumatic brain injury. Therefore, this research is relevant to part of NIH?s mission, since it develops the basic knowledge that will lead to improved methods for diagnosing, preventing and treating this condition.