Department of Neurology, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA, 1501 Kings Highway, LA 71103 USA.
Rationale: Adverse experiences in early life including abuse, trauma and neglect, have been linked to poor physical and mental health outcomes. Emerging evidence implies that those who experienced early life adversity (ELA) are more likely to develop cognitive dysfunction and depressive-like symptoms in adulthood. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the negative consequences of ELA, however, remain unclear. In the absence of effective management options, anticipatory guidance is the mainstay of ELA prevention. Furthermore, there is no available treatment that prevents or alleviates the neurologic sequelae of ELA, especially traumatic stress. Hence, the present study aims to investigate the mechanisms for these associations and evaluate whether photobiomodulation (PBM), a non-invasive therapeutic procedure, can prevent the negative cognitive and behavioral manifestations of ELA in later life.
Methods: ELA was induced by repeated inescapable electric foot shock of rats from postnatal day 21 to 26. On the day immediately following the last foot shock, 2-min daily PBM treatment was applied transcranially for 7 consecutive days. Cognitive dysfunction and depression-like behaviors were measured by a battery of behavioral tests in adulthood. Subsequently, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) differentiation, the proliferation and apoptosis of oligodendrocyte lineage cells (OLs), mature oligodendrocyte, myelinating oligodendrocyte, the level of oxidative damage, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and total antioxidant capacity were measured and analyzed using immunofluorescence staining, capillary-based immunoassay (ProteinSimple®) and antioxidant assay kit.
Results: The rats exposed to ELA exhibited obvious oligodendrocyte dysfunction, including a reduction in OPCs differentiation, diminished generation and survival of OLs, decreased OLs, and decreased matured oligodendrocyte. Furthermore, a deficit in myelinating oligodendrocytes was observed, in conjunction with an imbalance in redox homeostasis and accumulated oxidative damage. These alternations were concomitant with cognitive dysfunction and depression-like behaviors. Importantly, we found that early PBM treatment largely prevented these pathologies and reversed the neurologic sequelae resulting from ELA.
Conclusions: Collectively, these findings provide new insights into the mechanism by which ELA affects neurological outcomes. Moreover, our findings support that PBM may be a promising strategy to prevent ELA-induced neurologic sequelae that develops later in life.
Keywords: Early life adversity (ELA), Photobiomodulation (PBM), Cognition, Depression, Oligodendrocyte