Cognitive dysfunction following stroke significantly impacts quality of life and functional independance; yet, despite the prevalence and negative impact of cognitive deficits, post-stroke interventions almost exclusively target motor impairments. As a result, current treatment options are limited in their ability to promote post-stroke cognitive recovery. Cyclosporin A (CsA) has been previously shown to improve post-stroke functional recovery of sensorimotor deficits. Interestingly, CsA is a commonly used immunosuppressant and also acts directly on endogenous neural precursor cells (NPCs) in the neurogenic regions of the brain (the periventricular region and the dentate gyrus). The immunosuppressive and NPC activation effects are mediated by calcineurin-dependent and calcineurin-independent pathways, respectively. To develop a cognitive stroke model, focal bilateral lesions were induced in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) of adult mice using endothelin-1. First, we characterized this stroke model in the acute and chronic phase, using problem-solving and memory-based cognitive tests. mPFC stroke resulted in early and persistent deficits in short-term memory, problem-solving and behavioral flexibility, without affecting anxiety. Second, we investigated the effects of acute and chronic CsA treatment on NPC activation, neuroprotection, and tissue damage. Acute CsA administration post-stroke increased the size of the NPC pool. There was no effect on neurodegeneration or lesion volume. Lastly, we looked at the effects of chronic CsA treatment on cognitive recovery. Long-term CsA administration promoted NPC migration toward the lesion site and rescued cognitive deficits to control levels. This study demonstrates that CsA treatment activates the NPC population, promotes migration of NPCs to the site of injury, and leads to improved cognitive recovery following long-term treatment.
Keywords: cognitive dysfunction; cognitive recovery; endogenous repair; immunosuppression; neural precursor activation; neural precursor cells; stroke.