Long-lasting biological changes reflecting past experience have been studied in and typically attributed to neurons in the brain. Astrocytes, which are also present in large number in the brain, have recently been found to contribute critically to learning and memory processing. In the brain, glycogen is primarily found in astrocytes and is metabolized to lactate, which can be released from astrocytes. Here we report that astrocytes themselves have intrinsic neurochemical plasticity that alters the availability and provision of metabolic substrates long after an experience. Rats were trained to find food on one of two versions of a 4-arm maze: a hippocampus-sensitive place task and a striatum-sensitive response task. Remarkably, hippocampal glycogen content increased while striatal levels decreased during the 30 days after rats were trained to find food in the place version, but not the response version, of the maze tasks. A long-term consequence of the durable changes in glycogen stores was seen in task-by-site differences in extracellular lactate responses activated by testing on a working memory task administered 30 days after initial training, the time when differences in glycogen content were most robust. These results suggest that astrocytic plasticity initiated by a single experience may augment future availability of energy reserves, perhaps priming brain areas to process learning of subsequent experiences more effectively.
- Memory systems
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience