Graduation Year

2019

Date of Submission

12-2018

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Neuroscience

Reader 1

Ephron Rosenzweig

Reader 2

Thomas Borowski

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2018 Sydney M Talmi

Abstract

The corticospinal tract (CST), which carries commands from the cerebral cortex to the spinal cord, is vital to fine motor control. Spinal cord injury (SCI) often damages CST axons, causing loss of motor function, most notably in the hands and legs. Our preliminary work in rats suggests that CST circuitry is complex: neurons whose axons project to the lower cervical spinal cord, which directly controls hand function, also send axon collaterals to other locations in the nervous system and may engage parallel motor systems. To inform research into repair of SCI, we therefore aimed to map the entire projection pattern, or “connectome,” of such cervically-projecting CST axons. In this study, we mapped the corticospinal connectome of the Rhesus macaque - an animal model more similar to humans, and therefore more clinically relevant for examining SCI. Comparison of the Rhesus macaque and rat CST connectome, and extrapolation to the human CST connectome, may improve targeting of treatments and rehabilitation after human SCI.

To selectively trace cervically-projecting CST motor axons, a virus encoding a Cre-recombinase-dependent tracer (AAV-DIO-gCOMET) was injected into the hand motor cortex, and a virus encoding Cre-recombinase (AAV-Cre) was injected into the C8 level of the spinal cord. In this intersectional approach, the gCOMET virus infects many neurons in the cortex, but gCOMET expression is not turned on unless the nucleus also contains Cre-recombinase, which must be retrogradely transported from axon terminals in the C8 spinal cord. Thus, gCOMET is only expressed in neurons that project to the C8 spinal cord, and it proceeds to fill the entire neuron, including all axon collaterals. Any gCOMET-labeled axon segments observed in other regions of the nervous system are therefore collaterals of cervically-projecting axons. gCOMET-positive axons were immunohistochemically labeled, and axon density was quantified using a fluorescence microscope and Fiji/ImageJ software. Specific regions of interest were chosen for analysis because of their known relevance in motor function in humans, and for comparison to results of a similar study in rats. Results in the first monkey have revealed both similarities and differences between the monkey and rodent CST connectome. Analyses of additional monkeys are ongoing. The final results will provide detailed information about differences between rodent and primate CST, will serve as a baseline for examining changes in the CST connectome after SCI, and will provide guidance for studies targeting treatment and functional recovery after SCI.

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