Sexually dimorphic responses to neonatal basal forebrain lesions in mice: II. Cortical morphology

Christine F. Hohmann, Joanne Berger-Sweeney

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Previous studies in the mouse have shown that neonatal lesions to the cholinergic basal forebrain (nBM) areas result in transient cholinergic depletion of neocortex and precipitate altered cortical morphogenesis. Lesion-induced morphological alterations in cortex persist into adulthood and are accompanied by behavioral changes, including spatial memory deficits. The current study investigated whether neonatal nBM lesions affect male and female mice differently in adulthood. Quantitative morphometry of cortical layer which was employed to assess alterations in cyto-architecture in neonatally nBM-lesioned and littermate control mice of both sexes following behavioral testing. Our results showed significant decreases in cortical layer IV and V widths across somato/motor cortex in neonatally nBM lesioned mice of both sexes. Sexually dimorphic responses were observed in cortical layer II/III and total cortical width, limited to the area containing the 'barrel cortex' representation of the whisker hairs. In lesioned females, layer II/III and total cortical width were decreased relative to female controls, and in lesioned males, layer II/III was increased relative to controls, whereas total cortical width was unchanged. In male but not female mice were observed significant correlations between decrease widths in layer IV and V and impaired performance on a spatial memory task. The current data further support a role of developing cholinergic cortical afferents in the modulation of cortical morphogenesis and cortical circuits involved in cognitive behaviors. In addition, our observations provide further evidence for sexually dimorphic development and function in cognitive centers of the rodent brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-606
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998


  • Cholinergic
  • Cytoarchitecture
  • Neocortex
  • Sexual dimorphism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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