Absolute Winding Number Differentiates Mouse Spatial Navigation Strategies With Genetic Risk for Alzheimer's Disease.
Spatial navigation and orientation are emerging as promising markers for altered cognition in prodromal Alzheimer's disease, and even in cognitively normal individuals at risk for Alzheimer's disease. The different APOE gene alleles confer various degrees of risk. The APOE2 allele is considered protective, APOE3 is seen as control, while APOE4 carriage is the major known genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. We have used mouse models carrying the three humanized APOE alleles and tested them in a spatial memory task in the Morris water maze. We introduce a new metric, the absolute winding number, to characterize the spatial search strategy, through the shape of the swim path. We show that this metric is robust to noise, and works for small group samples. Moreover, the absolute winding number better differentiated APOE3 carriers, through their straighter swim paths relative to both APOE2 and APOE4 genotypes. Finally, this novel metric supported increased vulnerability in APOE4 females. We hypothesized differences in spatial memory and navigation strategies are linked to differences in brain networks, and showed that different genotypes have different reliance on the hippocampal and caudate putamen circuits, pointing to a role for white matter connections. Moreover, differences were most pronounced in females. This departure from a hippocampal centric to a brain network approach may open avenues for identifying regions linked to increased risk for Alzheimer's disease, before overt disease manifestation. Further exploration of novel biomarkers based on spatial navigation strategies may enlarge the windows of opportunity for interventions. The proposed framework will be significant in dissecting vulnerable circuits associated with cognitive changes in prodromal Alzheimer's disease.
Badea, A; Li, D; Niculescu, AR; Anderson, RJ; Stout, JA; Williams, CL; Colton, CA; Maeda, N; Dunson, DB
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