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Carnegie Mellon U. imaging study reveals sex-based differences that persist as mice enter adulthood

Using advanced imaging technology, Carnegie Mellon University scientist Eric Ahrens and co-investigators have conducted the first systematic examination of developmental and sex-associated changes in adolescent and adult mouse brains to reveal fundamental differences in key brain structures, such as those important for emotions, learning, and memory. The results, in press with NeuroImage, show that sex hormones alter the development of certain brain structures during puberty and that these effects persist into adulthood.

The findings provide a much truer representation of how circulating hormones affect brain structures than could be derived from human imaging for several reasons, according to Ahrens. The animals studied were nearly genetically identical and reared in the same environment -- factors that cannot be controlled in human studies. And the imaging technology, magnetic resonance microscopy, allows high resolution, 3D imaging in the intact, tiny mouse brain.

"The finding that specific brain structures change at puberty under the influence of sex hormones should help scientists understand how levels of sex hormones alter the brain's development," said Ahrens, assistant professor of biological sciences. "Researchers could artificially manipulate sex hormones and then use MRM technology to see how the hormones affect brain structures in animal models."

"This information also may be critical for modeling human neurologic diseases such as Parkinson's and neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia so that we can develop more effective therapies," Ahrens said. "In addition, these results may reveal how structural sex-associated brain differences influence behavior and cognition."

Ahrens and Kyoko Koshibu, a graduate student, captured images of intact mouse brains using magnetic resonance microscopy (MRM), an extremely high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique. Carnegie Mellon is one of few groups nationwi
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Contact: Lauren Ward
wardle@andrew.cmu.edu
412-268-7761
Carnegie Mellon University
28-Jun-2004


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