Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Environmental Risks / 07.02.2018
MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Lily Yan MD PhD Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Program Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48824 MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
- The effects of light on cognitive function have been well-documented in human studies, with brighter illumination associated with better cognitive performance. However, the underlying neural mechanisms are not well understood.
- In this study, we explored the mechanisms of how light modulates spatial learning and memory, using diurnal Nile grass rats. In contrast to most laboratory animals that are active at night and fall asleep following light exposure, these animals are active during the day, thus an ideal model for understanding the effects of light on humans.
- When the animals were housed in dim light during the day, mimicking the cloudy days or typical indoor lighting, the animals had a ~30% reduction in the dendritic spines, which make the connection between brain cells, within the hippocampus, a brain region critical for learning and memory. Animals housed in dim light also performed poorly in a water maze, compared to those housed in bright light.
- When the animals that had been in dim light were then housed in bright light for 4 weeks, the connections in their hippocampus and performance in the water maze recovered fully.