Enhancements to memory are associated with enhanced neural structures that support those capabilities. A great deal of work has examined this relationship in the context of natural variation in spatial memory capability and hippocampal (Hp) structure. Most studies have focused on volumetric and neuron measures, but have seldom examined the role of glial cells. Once considered involved only in supportive functions associated with neurons, the importance of glial cells in cognitive processes, including memory, is gaining more attention. Building upon our previous study on the relationship between the brain, memory, and environmental severity in food-caching birds, we compared the total number of Hp glial cells in wild-sampled and in lab-reared (common garden) black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) originating from two different environmental extremes. We found that birds from more harsh climate tended to have significantly more Hp glial cells than those from more mild climate and that lab-reared chickadees had significantly fewer Hp glial cells compared to the wild-sampled birds. These results suggest that population differences in glial numbers may be controlled, at least in part, by heritable mechanisms, but glial numbers appear to be additionally regulated by an individual's environment. The pattern of Hp glial cell abundance among our treatment groups closely followed that of the Hp volume, suggesting that Hp glial cell number may be associated with the Hp volume. Unlike Hp neurons, however, the number of Hp glial cells may be, at least in part, affected by an individual's experiences and environment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience