Repetitive mild concussion in subjects with a vulnerable cholinergic system: Lasting cholinergic-attentional impairments in CHT<sup>+/−</sup> mice.

Previous research emphasized the impact of traumatic brain injury on cholinergic systems and associated cognitive functions. Here we addressed the converse question: Because of the available evidence indicating cognitive and neuronal vulnerabilities in humans expressing low-capacity cholinergic systems or with declining cholinergic systems, do injuries cause more severe cognitive decline in such subjects, and what cholinergic mechanisms contribute to such vulnerability? Using mice heterozygous for the choline transporter (CHT+/− mice) as a model for a limited cholinergic capacity, we investigated the cognitive and neuronal consequences of repeated, mild concussion injuries (rmCc). After five rmCc, and compared with wild type (WT) mice, CHT+/− mice exhibited severe and lasting impairments in sustained attention performance, consistent with effects of cholinergic losses on attention. However, rmCc did not affect the integrity of neuronal cell bodies and did not alter the density of cortical synapses. As a cellular mechanism potentially responsible for the attentional impairment in CHT+/− mice, we found that rmCc nearly completely attenuated performance-associated, CHT-mediated choline transport. These results predict that subjects with an already vulnerable cholinergic system will experience severe and lasting cognitive-cholinergic effects after even relatively mild injuries. If confirmed in humans, such subjects may be excluded from, or receive special protection against, activities involving injury risk. Moreover, the treatment and long-term outcome of traumatic brain injuries may benefit from determining the status of cholinergic systems and associated cognitive functions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)