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2020 Apr 29

Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry

Brain irradiation leads to persistent neuroinflammation and long-term neurocognitive dysfunction in a region-specific manner.


Constanzo J, Midavaine É, Fouquet J, Lepage M, Descoteaux M, Kirby K, Tremblay L, Masson-Côté L, Geha S, Longpré J-M, Paquette B, Sarret P
Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2020 Apr 29:109954.
PMID: 32360786.


Long-term cognitive deficits are observed after treatment of brain tumors or metastases by radiotherapy. Treatment optimization thus requires a better understanding of the effects of radiotherapy on specific brain regions, according to their sensitivity and interconnectivity. In the present study, behavioral tests supported by immunohistology and magnetic resonance imaging provided a consistent picture of the persistent neurocognitive decline and neuroinflammation after the onset of irradiation-induced necrosis in the right primary somatosensory cortex of Fischer rats. Necrosis surrounded by neovascularization was first detected 54 days after irradiation and then spread to 110 days in the primary motor cortex, primary somatosensory region, striatum and right ventricle, resulting in fiber bundle disruption and demyelination in the corpus callosum of the right hemisphere. These structural damages translated into selective behavioral changes including spatial memory loss, disinhibition of anxiety-like behaviors, hyperactivity and pain hypersensitivity, but no significant alteration in motor coordination and grip strength abilities. Concomitantly, activated microglia and reactive astrocytes, accompanied by infiltration of leukocytes (CD45+) and T-cells (CD3+) cooperated to shape the neuroinflammation response. Overall, our study suggests that the slow and gradual onset of cellular damage would allow adaptation in brain regions that are susceptible to neuronal plasticity; while other cerebral structures that do not have this capacity would be more affected. The planning of radiotherapy, adjusted to the sensitivity and adaptability of brain structures, could therefore preserve certain neurocognitive functions; while higher doses of radiation could be delivered to brain areas that can better adapt to this treatment. In addition, strategies to block early post-radiation events need to be explored to prevent the development of long-term cognitive dysfunction.