Evidence supporting a role for astrocytes in the regulation of cognitive flexibility and neuronal oscillations through the Ca2+ binding protein S100β

Brockett AT, Kane GA, Monari PK, Briones BA, Vigneron PA, Barber GA, Bermudez A, Dieffenbach U, Kloth AD, Buschman TJ, Gould E

PLoS One, 2018; 13 (4): e0195726.

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The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is important for cognitive flexibility, the ability to switch between two task-relevant dimensions. Changes in neuronal oscillations and alterations in the coupling across frequency ranges have been correlated with attention and cognitive flexibility. Here we show that astrocytes in the mPFC of adult male Sprague Dawley rats, participate in cognitive flexibility through the astrocyte-specific Ca2+ binding protein S100β, which improves cognitive flexibility and increases phase amplitude coupling between theta and gamma oscillations. We further show that reduction of astrocyte number in the mPFC impairs cognitive flexibility and diminishes delta, alpha and gamma power. Conversely, chemogenetic activation of astrocytic intracellular Ca2+ signaling in the mPFC enhances cognitive flexibility, while inactivation of endogenous S100β among chemogenetically activated astrocytes in the mPFC prevents this improvement. Collectively, our work suggests that astrocytes make important contributions to cognitive flexibility and that they do so by releasing a Ca2+ binding protein which in turn enhances coordinated neuronal oscillations.