Many people with schizophrenia struggle to think clearly and remember information, and these problems prevent many from living and working independently. How these difficulties arise in the first place remains mysterious, but a new study by NARSAD Grantees and co-senior authors Christoph Kellendonk, Ph.D., and Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. (also a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Scientific Council Member) of Columbia University, NY, and colleagues highlights a role for a region deep inside the brain called the mediodorsal (MD) thalamus. The study was published on March 21, 2013 in Neuron.
The MD thalamus makes many two-way connections with the prefrontal cortex, a brain region already well-known for complex thinking and memory. Brain scans have found that the MD thalamus seems underactive in people with schizophrenia.
To mimic this underactive MD thalamus signaling, the researchers dialed down the electrical signals in the MD thalamus in mice. This gave rise to problems with thinking and memory that are very similar to those seen in people with schizophrenia, and also interfered with communication between the MD thalamus and prefrontal cortex. The study illustrates that even a subtle disturbance in one part of the brain can substantially disrupt the flow of information throughout the brain, causing tangible problems with complex thinking and memory function.
Read the study announcement
Read more about the study on the website of the Schizophrenia Resource Forum, which is sponsored by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation
Watch a video about this research: