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Schizophr Bull. 2009 Nov;35(6):1037-44. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbp114. Epub 2009 Oct 14.

How high-resolution basal-state functional imaging can guide the development of new pharmacotherapies for schizophrenia.

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Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University, New York, NY 10032, USA.


We describe here a coordinated brain imaging and animal models approach in which we have shown that the hippocampal CA1 region is a principal node in schizophrenia pathogenesis and have identified a novel treatment approach to the disorder based on inhibition of glutamate release. To identify biomarkers, we have focused on the putative prodromal period, typically lasting a few years, preceding the first onset of psychosis. About one-third of a high-risk cohort followed prospectively for 2.5 years will progress to threshold psychosis, making it possible to perform a relatively short prospective study. We have utilized a technological development in functional imaging techniques in which we measure cerebral blood volume (CBV), which allows for interrogation of subregions of the brain in the basal state at submillimeter resolution. Measurements of CBV in schizophrenia as well as in high-risk or prodromal stages can then pinpoint brain subregions differentially targeted during the earliest stages of the disorder. Our data suggest that the CA1 subfield of the hippocampal formation is most consistently implicated across disease stages, identifying a putative biomarker suitable for guiding drug development. Our studies in transgenic mice mutant in the glutamate synthetic enzyme glutaminase support the hypothesis that CA1 hyperfunction is due to altered glutamatergic neurotransmission. As a proof of principle, the glutaminase-deficient mice suggest that pharmacotherapies that reduce glutamatergic neurotransmission in the CA1 subfield may be a uniquely effective therapeutic strategy in schizophrenia and preventative in prodromal stages of the disorder.

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