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Med Hypotheses. 2011 Jun;76(6):914-21. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2011.03.009. Epub 2011 Apr 11.

Optogenetic neuronal control in schizophrenia.

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Bruce and Ruth Rappaport Faculty of Medicine, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology Haifa, Israel.


Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder characterized by a heterogeneous spectrum of clinical manifestations. Schizophrenia is basically incurable. The discovery of antipsychotic medications in the late 1940s has helped control some of the symptoms but has not reversed the course of the disorder and has had limited effect on the debilitating symptoms of the illness. In recent years brain stimulation technologies have emerged in the bio-scientific scenery. Deep brain stimulation now plays an important role in the treatment of many neurological disorders, and seems promising in treating depression. Optogenetics is a new technology that offers control over neuronal activity by turning on and off distinct neuronal populations. It has a great advantage over previous brain stimulation technologies in that it is accurate and specific to the neurons intended for activation and control. There is no evidence that brain stimulation has been investigated in schizophrenia patients. This possibility was discussed in a single commentary that proposed the hippocampus and nucleus accumbence as targets for DBS in schizophrenia, however it was emphasized that the neurophysiology and neuroanatomy of schizophrenia have not been elucidated to the extent that brain stimulation can be planned. In light of new optogenetic technology time is ripe to seriously consider optional targets of intervention in the brain of schizophrenia patients. Any such target should involve neuronal circuits (1) known to be relevant for schizophrenia, (2) involved in cognitive and brain functions that are disturbed in schizophrenia, and (3) relevant to alleged neuronal network mechanisms that are presumably damaged or malfunctioning in schizophrenia. This paper reviews the relevant literature and proposes that optogenetic interventions in schizophrenia should begin in the prefrontal cortex and the Globus-Pallidus Subthalamic nuclei systems. In the protocol for the prefrontal cortex, wide-arbore and chandelier inhibitory interneurons should be targets for optogenetic intervention and in the Globus-Pallidus Subthalamic nuclei the fast spiking neurons should be targets for optogenetic intervention. These subsystems are critical modulators of neural complexity which is directly relevant to connectivity organization in the brain. Schizophrenia is described as a disturbance of connectivity organization in the brain treatable by the relevant optogenetic interventions promoted in this paper.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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