Study Reveals Possible Targets For Treating Neuropsychiatric Diseases In Teenagers

The brain undergoes constant change throughout development and adolescence. Early adulthood is a common time for the onset of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. The dopamine system, which is essential for clear thinking and decision making, begins to malfunction at this stage of development. Researchers at the University of Rochester’s Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience are getting closer to identifying a potential target for the treatment of neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and autism during this critical period of development, which can affect brain circuitry during adulthood. .

“Brain development is a long process, and many neuronal systems have critical windows — critical times when brain regions are malleable and go through final maturation stages,” said Ryan Stowell, a postdoctoral fellow in the Wang lab at the Medical University of Rochester. , said Ph.D. Center and co-first author on the research in the journal eLife.

“By identifying these windows, we can target interventions at these time periods and potentially alter the course of disease by addressing the structural and behavioral deficits that lead to these disorders.” The researchers targeted poorly performing neurons in the dopamine system that connect to the frontal cortex in mice.

Also read: Walking improves brain connectivity, memory in older adults: Study

This circuitry is essential in higher cognitive processing and decision making. They found that stimulating cells that deliver dopamine to the frontal cortex strengthened this circuit and rescued structural deficits in the brain that cause long-term symptoms. Previous research from the Wang lab identified that this specific arm of the dopamine system was flexible in the adolescent brain but not in adults.

This most recent research used this window for plasticity in the system as an opportunity for therapeutic intervention. “These findings suggest that increasing the activity of adolescent dopaminergic circuitry can offset existing deficits in the circuit and that this effect may be long-lasting as these changes persist into adulthood,” Stowell said.

“If we can target the right windows in development and understand the signals at play, we can develop treatments that alter the course of these brain disorders.”