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Motor training improves coordination and anxiety in symptomatic Mecp2-null mice despite impaired functional connectivity within the motor circuit

By Yuanlei Yue, Pan Xu, Zhichao Liu, Xiaoqian Sun, Juntao Su, Hongfei Du, Lingling Chen, Ryan Ash, Stelios Manolis Smirnakis, Rahul Simha, Linda Kusner, Chen Zeng, Hui Lu

Posted 30 Sep 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/786822

Rett Syndrome (RTT) is a severe neurodevelopmental disorder caused by loss of function of the X-linked Methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MECP2). Several case studies report that gross motor function can be improved in children with RTT through treadmill walking, but whether the MeCP2-deficient motor circuit can support actual motor learning remains unclear. We used two-photon calcium imaging to simultaneously observe layer (L) 2/3 and L5a excitatory neuronal activity in the motor cortex (M1) while mice adapted to changing speeds on a computerized running wheel. Despite circuit hypoactivity and weakened functional connectivity across L2/3 and L5a, the Mecp2-null circuit's firing pattern evolved with improved performance over two weeks. Moreover, trained mice became less anxious and lived 20% longer than untrained mice. Since motor deficits and anxiety are core symptoms of Rett, which is not diagnosed until well after symptom onset, these results underscore the benefit of motor learning.

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