Linkage between early-life exposure to anesthesia and subsequent learning disabilities is of great concern to children and their families. Here we show that early-life exposure to midazolam (MDZ), a widely used drug in pediatric anesthesia, persistently alters chromatin accessibility and the expression of quiescence-associated genes in neural stem cells (NSCs) in the mouse hippocampus. The alterations led to a sustained restriction of NSC proliferation toward adulthood, resulting in a reduction of neurogenesis that was associated with the impairment of hippocampal-dependent memory functions. Moreover, we found that voluntary exercise restored hippocampal neurogenesis, normalized the MDZ-perturbed transcriptome, and ameliorated cognitive ability in MDZ-exposed mice. Our findings thus explain how pediatric anesthesia provokes long-term adverse effects on brain function and provide a possible therapeutic strategy for countering them.
Hiroyoshi Doi et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America September 2021