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Br J Pharmacol. 2018 Apr;175(7):994-1003. doi: 10.1111/bph.14146. Epub 2018 Feb 26.

The use of chemogenetics in behavioural neuroscience: receptor variants, targeting approaches and caveats.

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The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia.
Department of Anatomy & Neurosciences, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The last decade has seen major advances in neuroscience tools allowing us to selectively modulate cellular pathways in freely moving animals. Chemogenetic approaches such as designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) permit the remote control of neuronal function by systemic drug administration. These approaches have dramatically advanced our understanding of the neural control of behaviour. Here, we review the different techniques and genetic approaches available for the restriction of chemogenetic receptors to defined neuronal populations. We highlight the use of a dual virus approach to target specific circuitries and the effectiveness of different routes of administration of designer drugs. Finally, we discuss the potential caveats associated with DREADDs including off-target effects of designer drugs, the effects of chronic chemogenetic receptor activation and the issue of collateral projections associated with DREADD activation and inhibition.

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