Brain Circuitry Associated with Addictive, Depressive Behaviors Identified

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, California, have determined how specific circuitry in the brain controls not only body movement, but also motivation and learning, providing new insight into neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease—and psychiatric disorders such as addiction and depression. [Referential website: California rehab centers Previously, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Investigator Anatol Kreitzer, Ph.D., discovered how an imbalance in the activity of a specific category of brain cells is linked to Parkinson's. Now, in a paper published online on April 29, 2012 in Nature Neuroscience, Dr. Kreitzer and his team used animal models to demonstrate that this imbalance may also contribute to psychiatric disorders. These findings also help explain the wide range of Parkinson's symptoms—and mark an important step in finding new treatments for those who suffer from addiction or depression. “The physical symptoms that affect people with Parkinson's—including tremors and rigidity of movement—are caused by an imbalance between two types of medium spiny neurons in the brain,” said Dr. Kreitzer, whose lab studies how Parkinson's disease affects brain functions. “In this paper, we showed that psychiatric disorders—specifically addiction and depression—might be caused by this same neural imbalance.” Normally, two types of medium spiny neurons, or MSNs, coordinate body movements. One type, called direct pathway MSNs (dMSNs), acts like a gas pedal. The other type, known as indirect pathway MSNs (iMSNs), acts as a brake.
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