Early Cognitive Experience Prevents Adult Deficits in a Neurodevelopmental Schizophrenia Model


Heekyung Lee, Dino Dvorak, Hsin-Ti Kao, Áine M. Duffy, Helen E. Scharfman, André A. Fenton


Brain abnormalities acquired early in life may cause schizophrenia, characterized by adulthood onset of psychosis, affective flattening, and cognitive impairments. Cognitive symptoms, like impaired cognitive control, are now recognized to be important treatment targets but cognition-promoting treatments are ineffective. We hypothesized that cognitive training during the adolescent period of neuroplastic development can tune compromised neural circuits to develop in the service of adult cognition and attenuate schizophrenia-related cognitive impairments that manifest in adulthood. We report, using neonatal ventral hippocampus lesion rats (NVHL), an established neurodevelopmental model of schizophrenia, that adolescent cognitive training prevented the adult cognitive control impairment in NVHL rats. The early intervention also normalized brain function, enhancing cognition-associated synchrony of neural oscillations between the hippocampi, a measure of brain function that indexed cognitive ability. Adolescence appears to be a critical window during which prophylactic cognitive therapy may benefit people at risk of schizophrenia.