What learning in day-old chickens can teach a neurochemist: focus on astrocyte metabolism

Leif Hertz, Marie Elizabeth Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


The learning process sets in motion a prolonged, reproducible, and complicated pattern of brain activation, which provides information about biochemical reactions in activated brain. Study of this pattern during one-trial aversive bead discrimination in day-old chick is facilitated by precise timing of sequential metabolic events occurring between a 10-s learning period, in which the chicks learn to associate a red bead with aversive taste, and memory consolidation, indicated by unwillingness to peck at untainted red beads while freely pecking at corresponding blue beads. Inhibition of learning by metabolic inhibitors and restoration of memory by specific substrates at specific times allow determination of specific metabolic events and their neuronal or astrocytic localization. Downstream metabolism of glycogen and of glucose to pyruvate/lactate is segregated into separate pools. Glucose metabolism via pyruvate dehydrogenation provides energy in both neurons and astrocytes and may include gap junction-mediated lactate transport into astrocytes. A key role is played by glycogenolysis, stimulated by beta2-adrenergic and/or 5-HT2-receptor stimulation along with alpha2-adrenergic stimulation of glycogen synthesis. The importance of glycogen reflects that it selectively supports de novo synthesis of transmitter glutamate by combined pyruvate dehydrogenation and carboxylation in astrocytes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10 - 16
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurochemistry
Issue numberSuppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Cite this