BNDF heterozygosity is associated with memory deficits and alterations in cortical and hippocampal EEG power
Brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a pivotal role in structural plasticity, learning, and memory. Electroencephalogram (EEG) spectral power in the cortex and hippocampus has also been correlated with learning and memory. In this study, we investigated the effect of globally reduced BDNF levels on learning behavior and EEG power via BDNF heterozygous (KO) rats. We employed several behavioral tests that are thought to depend on cortical and hippocampal plasticity to varying degrees: novel object recognition, a test that is reliant on a variety of cognitive systems; contextual fear, which is highly hippocampal-dependent; and cued fear, which has been shown to be amygdala-dependent. We also examined the effects of BDNF reduction on cortical and hippocampal EEG spectral power via chronically implanted electrodes in the motor cortex and dorsal hippocampus. We found that BDNF KO rats were impaired in novelty recognition and fear memory retention, while hippocampal EEG power was decreased in slow waves and increased in fast waves. Interestingly, our results, for the first time, show sexual dimorphism in each of our tests. These results support the hypothesis that BDNF drives both cognitive plasticity and coordinates EEG activity patterns, potentially serving as a link between the two.