Facilitated By

San Antonio Medical Foundation


UT Health San Antonio

The UT Health San Antonio, with missions of teaching, research and healing, is one of the country’s leading health sciences universities.

Principal Investigator(s)
Morilak, David A
Funded by
Research Start Date

Cognitive impairment has a serious detrimental impact on the quality of life for prostate cancer survivorstreated by androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). Neuroimaging studies have shown structural and functionaldeficits in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and hippocampus (Hipp), which mediate higher order cognitiveprocesses, including cognitive flexibility and spatial cognition, that are impaired after ADT. In this project, we willinvestigate mechanisms that underly the cognitive impairments we have now shown to be induced by androgendeprivation in rats. Also, as there is currently no satisfactory treatment for cognitive impairment after ADT, wewill test the efficacy of vortioxetine, a novel multi-modal antidepressant drug that has been shown to have specificand unique positive effects on cognitive impairment in depression, in potentially reversing cognitive impairmentafter ADT. Similar to SSRIs, vortioxetine blocks the serotonin transporter, but it also has direct actions on severalpre- and post-synaptic serotonin receptors that give it additional efficacy against symptoms of depression thatare often resistant to treatment, including cognitive impairment. To assess mPFC-mediated cognitive functionin rats, we will use the Attentional Set-shifting Test (AST). And to assess spatial cognition mediated in thehippocampus (Hipp), we will use the Novel Object Location (NOL) test. We have already shown that ADTinduces an impairment in cognitive set-shifting. Thus in aim 1A, we will complete the pilot study in which wehave preliminary data showing a spatial cognition deficit in the NOL test as well. In addition, there are manyfactors to consider in the full context of treating prostate cancer. Thus, in the rest of aim 1, together with ADTand vortioxetine, we will investigate the interacting influences of factors including age-related cognitive decline;an alternate method of inducing ADT with the GnRH antagonist degarelix; and chemotherapy with docetaxel.Indeed, because of recent changes to standard of care, we will also include docetaxel in all subsequent aims.In aim 2, we will then study neural processes related to functional plasticity that may underly the cognitive effectsof ADT and vortioxetine, measuring changes in electrical response evoked in mPFC by stimulating afferentsfrom the mediodorsal thalamus (MDT) and ventral Hipp, an indication of synaptic efficacy and functional integrityof cortical circuits. In aim 3, we will study processes related to structural plasticity, measuring changes indendritic complexity and synaptic spine density and morphology on pyramidal cells that drive the behavioraloutput of the mPFC and Hipp. Effects of androgens are mediated by gene transcription and protein expression.Thus, in aim 4, we will assess changes in gene expression in the mPFC and Hipp by microarray analysis, thenuse a ?candidate factor? approach to investigate changes in mRNA and protein expression and phosphorylationof specific plasticity-related signaling molecules. The results of this project may identify new targets for treatingcognitive impairment after ADT, and they may reveal new mechanisms underlying the efficacy of vortioxetine.

Collaborative Project
Basic Research