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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Endogenous Stress Hormone CRH Modulates Excitatory Transmission and Network Physiology in Hippocampus.

  • Author(s): Gunn, BG
  • Cox, CD
  • Chen, Y
  • Frotscher, M
  • Gall, CM
  • Baram, TZ
  • Lynch, G
  • et al.

Memory is strongly influenced by stress but underlying mechanisms are unknown. Here, we used electrophysiology, neuroanatomy, and network simulations to probe the role of the endogenous, stress-related neuropeptide corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in modulating hippocampal function. We focused on neuronal excitability and the incidence of sharp waves (SPWs), a form of intrinsic network activity associated with memory consolidation. Specifically, we blocked endogenous CRH using 2 chemically distinct antagonists of the principal hippocampal CRH receptor, CRHR1. The antagonists caused a modest reduction of spontaneous excitatory transmission onto CA3 pyramidal cells, mediated, in part by effects on IAHP. This was accompanied by a decrease in the incidence but not amplitude of SPWs, indicating that the synaptic actions of CRH are sufficient to alter the output of a complex hippocampal network. A biophysical model of CA3 described how local actions of CRH produce macroscopic consequences including the observed changes in SPWs. Collectively, the results provide a first demonstration of the manner in which subtle synaptic effects of an endogenously released neuropeptide influence hippocampal network level operations and, in the case of CRH, may contribute to the effects of acute stress on memory.

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