Jennifer Czerniawski, Teiko Miyashita, Gail Lewandowski, John F. Guzowski
Neuroinflammation is implicated in impairments in neuronal function and cognition that arise with aging, trauma, and/or disease. Therefore, understanding the underlying basis of the effect of immune system activation on neural function could lead to therapies for treating cognitive decline. Although neuroinflammation is widely thought to preferentially impair hippocampus-dependent memory, data on the effects of cytokines on cognition are mixed. One possible explanation for these inconsistent results is that cytokines may disrupt specific neural processes underlying some forms of memory but not others. In an earlier study, we tested the effect of systemic administration of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on retrieval of hippocampus-dependent context memory and neural circuit function in CA3 and CA1 (Czerniawski and Guzowski, 2014). Paralleling impairment in context discrimination memory, we observed changes in neural circuit function consistent with disrupted pattern separation function. In the current study we tested the hypothesis that acute neuroinflammation selectively disrupts memory retrieval in tasks requiring hippocampal pattern separation processes. Male Sprague–Dawley rats given LPS systemically prior to testing exhibited intact performance in tasks that do not require hippocampal pattern separation processes: novel object recognition and spatial memory in the water maze. By contrast, memory retrieval in a task thought to require hippocampal pattern separation, context–object discrimination, was strongly impaired in LPS-treated rats in the absence of any gross effects on exploratory activity or motivation. These data show that LPS administration does not impair memory retrieval in all hippocampus-dependent tasks, and support the hypothesis that acute neuroinflammation impairs context discrimination memory via disruption of pattern separation processes in hippocampus.