Cross-species approaches to cognitive neuroplasticity research

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Abstract

Neuroplasticity studies investigate the neural mechanisms that support learning-induced changes in cognition and behavior. These studies are performed in both experimental animals and humans across development from childhood to aging. Here, we review select recent studies that have sought to combine both animal and human neuroplasticity research within the same study. In investigating the same cognitive/behavioral functions in parallel in animals and humans, these studies take advantage of complementary neuroscience research methods that have been established for each species. In animals, these methods include investigations of genetic and molecular biomarker expression and micro-scale electrophysiology in single neurons in vivo or in brain slices. In humans, these studies assess macro-scale neural network dynamics using neuroimaging methods including EEG (electroencephalography) and functional and structural MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Thus, by combining these diverse and complementary methodologies cross-species studies have the unique ability to bridge molecular, systems and cognitive neuroscience research. Additionally, they serve a vital role in translational neuroscience, providing a direct bridge between animal models and human neuropsychiatric disorders. Comprehensive cross-species understanding of neural mechanisms at multiple scales of resolution and how these neural dynamics relate to behavioral outcomes, then serve to inform development and optimization of treatment strategies.

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