Researchers find new target for treating neuropsychiatric disorders in adolescents

Scientists at the Del Monte Institute for at the University of Rochester have made significant progress in identifying a potential treatment target for neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. These conditions often emerge during early adulthood when the brain is still undergoing developmental changes. Dysfunction in the dopamine system, which plays a crucial role in cognitive processing and decision-making, occurs during this period.

In a study published in the journal eLife, researchers focused on underperforming neurons in the dopamine system that connect to the frontal cortex in mice. This neural circuitry is vital for higher cognitive functions. By stimulating the dopamine-producing that supply the frontal cortex, the researchers observed a strengthening of this circuit and a restoration of structural abnormalities in the brain, which contribute to long-term symptoms.

Earlier research from the Wang Lab had already established that this particular branch of the dopamine system exhibits plasticity during adolescence but not in adulthood. Building on this knowledge, the recent study utilized the plasticity window in the system as a potential target for therapeutic interventions.

The findings indicate that enhancing the activity of the adolescent dopaminergic circuitry can ameliorate existing deficits in the circuit and produce long-lasting effects that persist into adulthood. By identifying the critical developmental periods and understanding the underlying mechanisms, the researchers hope to develop treatments that can alter the trajectory of these brain disorders.

In conclusion, the research conducted by the University of Rochester team offers promising insights into potential interventions for neuropsychiatric disorders by capitalizing on the malleability of brain circuitry during adolescence. By harnessing this knowledge, it may be possible to develop therapies that mitigate the structural and behavioral deficits associated with these conditions.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center

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