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1.  Deviant white matter structure in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder points to aberrant myelination and affects neuropsychological performance 
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in childhood is characterized by gray and white matter abnormalities in several brain areas. Considerably less is known about white matter microstructure in adults with ADHD and its relation with clinical symptoms and cognitive performance. In 107 adult ADHD patients and 109 gender-, age- and IQ-matched controls, we used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) with tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) to investigate whole-skeleton changes of fractional anisotropy (FA) and mean, axial, and radial diffusivity (MD, AD, RD). Additionally, we studied the relation of FA and MD values with symptom severity and cognitive performance on tasks measuring working memory, attention, inhibition, and delay discounting. In comparison to controls, participants with ADHD showed reduced FA in corpus callosum, bilateral corona radiata, and thalamic radiation. Higher MD and RD were found in overlapping and even more widespread areas in both hemispheres, also encompassing internal and external capsule, saggital stratum, fornix, and superior lateral fasciculus. Values of FA and MD were not associated with symptom severity. However, within some white matter clusters that distinguished patients from controls, worse inhibition performance was associated with reduced FA and more impulsive decision making was associated with increased MD. This study shows widespread differences in white matter integrity between adults with persistent ADHD and healthy individuals. Changes in RD suggest aberrant myelination as a pathophysiological factor in persistent ADHD. The microstructural differences in adult ADHD may contribute to poor inhibition and greater impulsivity but appear to be independent of disease severity.
PMCID: PMC4515357  PMID: 25956761
Adult ADHD; DTI; radial diffusivity; symptom severity; cognitive performance; corpus callosum
2.  Widespread white matter but focal gray matter alterations in depressed individuals with thoughts of death 
Past work demonstrates that depressed individuals with suicidal thoughts or behaviors exhibit specific neuroanatomical alterations. This may represent a distinct phenotype characterized by specific findings on neuroimaging, but it is unclear if these findings extend to individuals with milder thoughts of death. We examined this question in outpatients with recurrent Major Depressive Disorder not receiving antidepressant treatment.
We examined 165 subjects: 53 depressed without thoughts of death, 21 depressed with thoughts of death, and 91 healthy comparison subjects. Participants completed 3T cranial MRI, including anatomical and diffusion tensor imaging acquisitions. Automated methods measured regional gray matter volumes in addition to cortical thickness. White matter analyses examined diffusion measures within specific fiber tracts and included voxelwise comparisons.
After adjustment for multiple comparisons, the depressed group with thoughts of death did not exhibit differences in regional gray matter volume, but did exhibit reduced cortical thickness in frontoparietal regions and the insula. This depressed group with thoughts of death also exhibited widespread white matter differences in fractional anisotropy and radial diffusivity. These differences were observed primarily in posterior parietal white matter regions and central white matter tracts adjacent to the basal ganglia and thalamus.
Mild thoughts of death are associated with structural alterations in regions of the salience network, default mode network, and thalamocortical circuits. Further work is needed to understand the pathological basis of these findings.
PMCID: PMC4458419  PMID: 25963377
Depression; DTI; diffusion tensor imaging; MRI; suicide; insula; volumetric; anisotropy
3.  Nociceptin and the nociceptin receptor in learning and memory 
There are many processes in which the neuropeptide nociceptin/orphanin FQ (N/OFQ or nociceptin) is involved in the brain. The role of nociceptin in learning and memory holds promise in modulating these processes in health and disease in the human brain. This review summarizes the body of research focused on N/OFQ and its specific receptor, the nociceptin receptor (NOP receptor), in learning and memory, and its potential mechanisms of action, in which acetylcholine, NMDA receptor and noradrenaline may be critical. Finally, the association between NOP receptor and Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a psychiatric disorder with altered fear learning, is examined as one of the potential outcomes resulting from pathological consequences of dysregulation of N/OFQ-NOP receptor in the brain.
PMCID: PMC4458422  PMID: 25724763
Orl1; Oprl1; NOP receptor; nociceptin; N/OFQ; learning; memory; fear; amygdala; hippocampus; PTSD
4.  Kappa Opioid Receptor Signaling In the Brain: Circuitry and Implications for Treatment 
Kappa opioid receptors (KORs) in the central nervous system have been known to be important regulators of a variety of psychiatry illnesses, including anxiety and addiction, but their precise involvement in these behaviors is complex and has yet to be fully elucidated. Here, we briefly review the pharmacology of KORs in the brain, including KOR's involvement in anxiety, depression, and alcohol addiction. We also review the known neuronal circuitry impacted by KOR signaling, and interactions with corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), another key peptide in anxiety-related illnesses, as well as the role of glucocorticoids. We suggest that KORs are a promising therapeutic target for a host of neuropsychiatric conditions.
PMCID: PMC4465498  PMID: 25592680
KOR; dynorphin; stress; anxiety; addiction; circuitry
5.  μ-Opioid receptor 6-transmembrane isoform: a potential therapeutic target for new effective opioids 
The μ-opioid receptor (MOR) is the primary target for opioid analgesics. MOR induces analgesia through the inhibition of second messenger pathways and the modulation of ion channels activity. Nevertheless, cellular excitation has also been demonstrated, and proposed to mediate reduction of therapeutic efficacy and opioid-induced hyperalgesia upon prolonged exposure to opioids. In this mini-perspective, we review the recently identified, functional MOR isoform subclass, which consists of six transmembrane helices (6TM) and may play an important role in MOR signaling. There is evidence that 6TM MOR signals through very different cellular pathways and may mediate excitatory cellular effects rather than the classic inhibitory effects produced by the stimulation of the major (7TM) isoform. Therefore, the development of 6TM and 7TM MOR selective compounds represent a new and exciting opportunity to better understand the mechanisms of action and the pharmacodynamic properties of a new class of opioids.
Graphical Abstract
PMCID: PMC4646084  PMID: 25485963
Review; μ-opioid receptor; 6TM MOR isoform; drug discovery
Autism is marked by impairments in social reciprocity and communication, along with restricted, repetitive and stereotyped behaviors. Prior studies have separately investigated social processing and executive function in autism, but little is known about the brain mechanisms of cognitive control for both emotional and nonemotional stimuli. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify differences in neurocircuitry between individuals with high functioning autism (HFA) and neurotypical controls during two versions of a go/no-go task: emotional (fear and happy faces) and nonemotional (English letters). During the letter task, HFA participants showed hypoactivation in ventral prefrontal cortex. During the emotion task, happy faces elicited activation in ventral striatum, nucleus accumbens and anterior amygdala in neurotypical, but not HFA, participants. Response inhibition for fear faces compared with happy faces recruited occipitotemporal regions in HFA, but not neurotypical, participants. In a direct contrast of emotional no-go and letter no-go blocks, HFA participants showed hyperactivation in extrastriate cortex and fusiform gyrus. Accuracy for emotional no-go trials was negatively correlated with activation in fusiform gyrus in the HFA group. These results indicate that autism is associated with abnormal processing in socioemotional brain networks, and support the theory that autism is marked by a social motivational deficit.
PMCID: PMC4426235  PMID: 25765593
Autism Spectrum Disorder; Emotion; Cognition; Executive Function; fMRI
7.  Perspectives on the mGluR2/3 agonists as a therapeutic target for schizophrenia: still promising or a dead end? 
Group II metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR2/3) agonists once showed promise as non-dopaminergic antipsychotic drugs because of their efficacy in alleviating symptoms of schizophrenia (SZ) in both animal models and human patients. However, the recent failure of Phase III clinical trials dealt a huge blow to the scientific community and the aftershock of the setback in mGluR2/3 research can be felt everywhere from grant support and laboratory studies to paper publication. An immediate question raised is whether mGluR2/3 is still a promising therapeutic target for schizophrenia. Answering this question is not easy, but apparently a new strategy is needed. This article provides a focused review of literature on the study of mGluR2/3 agonists, especially on mGluR2/3 agonists’ mechanism of action and efficacy in both normal conditions and animal models of SZ, as well as clinical studies in human patients with the disease. We argue that the cellular and molecular actions of mGluR2/3 agonists, the distinct roles between mGluR2 and mGluR3, as well as their effects on different stages of the disease and different subpopulations of patients, remain incompletely studied. Until the mechanisms associated with mGluR2/3 are clearly elucidated and all treatment options are tested, it would be a great mistake to terminate the study of mGluR2/3 as a therapeutic target for schizophrenia. This review will thus shed light on the comprehensive features of the translational potential mGluR2/3 agonists as well as the need for further research into the more selective activation of mGluR2.
PMCID: PMC4426221  PMID: 25724760
Metabotropic glutamate receptors; mGluR2/3 agonists; NMDA receptor hypofunction; antipsychotics; schizophrenia
8.  Validation of candidate genes associated with cardiovascular risk factors in psychiatric patients 
The purpose of this study was to identify genetic variants predictive of cardiovascular risk factors in a psychiatric population treated with second generation antipsychotics (SGA). 924 patients undergoing treatment for severe mental illness at four US hospitals were genotyped at 1.2 million single nucleotide polymorphisms. Patients were assessed for fasting serum lipid (low density lipoprotein cholesterol [LDLc], high density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDLc], and triglycerides) and obesity phenotypes (body mass index, BMI). Thirteen candidate genes from previous studies of the same phenotypes in non-psychiatric populations were tested for association. We confirmed 8 of the 13 candidate genes at the 95% confidence level. An increased genetic effect size was observed for triglycerides in the psychiatric population compared to that in the cardiovascular population.
PMCID: PMC4912220  PMID: 21851846
Antipsychotics; Lipid metabolism; Obesity; Personalized medicine; Pharmacogenetics; Triglycerides
9.  Associations between DNA methylation and schizophrenia-related intermediate phenotypes a gene set enrichment analysis 
Multiple genetic approaches have identified microRNAs as key effectors in psychiatric disorders as they post-transcriptionally regulate expression of thousands of target genes. However, their role in specific psychiatric diseases remains poorly understood. In addition, epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, which affect the expression of both microRNAs and coding genes, are critical for our understanding of molecular mechanisms in schizophrenia.
Using clinical, imaging, genetic, and epigenetic data of 103 patients with schizophrenia and 111 healthy controls of the Mind Clinical Imaging Consortium (MCIC) study of schizophrenia, we conducted gene set enrichment analysis to identify markers for schizophrenia-associated intermediate phenotypes. Genes were ranked based on the correlation between DNA methylation patterns and each phenotype, and then searched for enrichment in 221 predicted microRNA target gene sets.
We found the predicted hsa-miR-219a-5p target gene set to be significantly enriched for genes (EPHA4, PKNOX1, ESR1, amongst others) whose methylation status is correlated with hippocampal volume independent of disease status. Our results were strengthened by significant associations between hsa-miR-219a-5p target gene methylation patterns and hippocampus-related neuropsychological variables. IPA pathway analysis of the respective predicted hsa-miR-219a-5p target genes revealed associated network functions in behaviour and developmental disorders.
Altered methylation patterns of predicted hsa-miR-219a-5p target genes are associated with a structural aberration of the brain that has been proposed as a possible biomarker for schizophrenia. The (dys)regulation of microRNA target genes by epigenetic mechanisms may confer additional risk for developing psychiatric symptoms. Further study is needed to understand possible interactions between microRNAs and epigenetic changes and their impact on risk for brain-based disorders such as schizophrenia.
PMCID: PMC4346504  PMID: 25598502
DNA methylation; schizophrenia; microRNA targets; GSEA; intermediate phenotype
10.  Regional Brain [11C]carfentanil Binding Following Tobacco Smoking 
To determine if overnight tobacco abstinent carriers of the AG or GG (*G) vs. the AA variant of the human mu opioid receptor (OPRM1) A118G polymorphism (rs1799971) differ in [11C]carfentanil binding after tobacco smoking.
Twenty healthy American male smokers who abstained from tobacco overnight were genotyped and completed positron emission tomography (PET) scans with the mu opioid receptor agonist, [11C]carfentanil. They smoked deniconized (denic) and average nicotine (avnic) cigarettes during the PET scans.
Smoking avnic cigarette decreased the binding potential (BPND) of [11C]carfentanil in the right medial prefrontal cortex (mPfc; 6,56,18), left anterior medial prefrontal cortex (amPfc; −2,46,44), right ventral striatum (vStr; 16, 3, −10), left insula (Ins; −42,10, −12), right hippocampus (Hippo; 18, −6, −14) and left cerebellum (Cbl; −10, −88, −34), and increased the BPND in left amygdala (Amy; −20,0, −22), left putamen (Put; −22, 10, −6) and left nucleus accumbens (NAcc; −10,12, −8). In the AA allele carriers, avnic cigarette smoking significantly changed the BPND compared to after denic smoking in most brain areas listed above. However in the *G carriers the significant BPND changes were confirmed in only amPfc and vStr. Free mu opioid receptor availability was significantly less in the *G than the AA carriers in the Amy and NAcc.
The present study demonstrates BPND changes induced by avnic smoking in OPRM1 *G carriers were blunted compared to the AA carriers. Also *G smokers had less free mu opioid receptor availability in Amy and NAcc.
PMCID: PMC4375952  PMID: 25598501
PET; [11C]carfentanil; OPRM1; A118G; smoking
11.  Evaluation of the dopamine β-hydroxylase (DβH) inhibitor nepicastat in participants who meet criteria for cocaine use disorder 
In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that the potent and selective dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DβH) inhibitor nepicastat would have minimal effects on cardiovascular and pharmacokinetic parameters associated with cocaine administration and would reduce the positive subjective effects produced by cocaine. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, inpatient study of oral nepicastat (0, 80 and 160 mg) concurrent with intravenous (IV) cocaine (0, 10, 20 and 40 mg) in non-treatment seeking participants who metcriteria for cocaine use disorder. Safety analyses revealed that nepicastat was well-tolerated and there were no differences in adverse events observed after nepicastat plus cocaine vs. cocaine alone. In addition, the pharmacokinetic properties of cocaine administration were not altered by nepicastat treatment. Cocaine-induced cardiovascular and subjective effects were evaluated for completers in the cohort randomized to nepicastat (n = 13) using a within-subjects statistical analysis strategy. Specifically, the cardiovascular and subjective effects of cocaine were assessed in the presence of placebo (0 mg), 80 mg of nepicastat or 160 mg of nepicastat on study Days 4, 8 and 12, respectively. Analyses revealed a main effect of nepicastat to reduce several cocaine-induced positive subjective effects. Taken together, these data indicate that nepicastat is safe when co-administered with cocaine and may suppress its positive subjective effects, and may be viable as a pharmacotherapy for treatment of cocaine use disorder.
PMCID: PMC4777897  PMID: 25602710
Cocaine; Dopamine-β-hydroxylase; Nepicastat; SYN117
12.  High Fat Diet Decreases Beneficial Effects of Estrogen on Serotonin-Related Gene Expression in Marmosets 
The administration of estradiol-17β (E) to animal models after loss of ovarian steroid production has many beneficial effects on neural functions, particularly in the serotonin system in nonhuman primates (NHPs). E also has anorexic effects, although the mechanism of action is not well defined. In the US, obesity has reached epidemic proportions, and blame is partially directed at the Western style diet, which is high in fat and sugar. This study examined the interaction of E and diet in surgically menopausal nonhuman primates with a 2 × 2 block design. Marmosets (Callithrix jacchus; n=4/group) were placed on control-low fat diet (LFD; 14%kcal from fat) or high fat diet (HFD; 28%kcal from fat) 1 month prior to ovariectomy (Ovx). Empty (placebo) or E-filled Silastic capsules were implanted immediately following Ovx surgery. Treatments extended 6 months. The established groups were: placebo+LFD; E+LFD; placebo+HFD, or E+HFD. At necropsy, the brain was flushed with saline and harvested. The midbrain was dissected and a small block containing the dorsal raphe nucleus was processed for qRT-PCR using Evagreen (Biotinum). Genes previously found to impact serotonin neural functions were examined. Results were compared with 2-way ANOVA followed by Bonferroni post-hoc tests or Cohen’s D analysis. There was a significant effect of treatment on tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2) across the groups (p=0.019). E stimulated TPH2 expression and HFD prevented E-stimulated TPH2 expression (p<0.01). Treatment differentially affected monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) across the groups (p=0.05). E increased MAO-B with LFD, and this stimulatory effect was prevented by HFD (p<0.05). There was a significant difference between treatments in corticotrophin releasing factor-receptor 2 (CRF-R2) expression (p=0.012). E increased CRF-R2 and this stimulatory effect was blocked by HFD (p<0.01). Regardless of diet, E increased Fev mRNA (p=0.028) and decreased CRF-receptor 1 (CRF-R1) mRNA (p=0.04). HFD suppressed urocortin 1 (UCN1; stresscopin) expression (p=0.045) but E treatment had no effect. Monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) was different due to treatment across the groups (p=0.028). MAO-A was increased in the E+HFD group (p<0.01) whereas previous studies showed E suppressed MAO-A in macaques. The serotonin reuptake transporter (SERT), the serotonin 1A receptor (5HT1A), estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) and progestin receptor (PR) expressions were not different between groups. Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) was undetectable. In summary, the data indicate that important actions of hormone therapy in the serotonin system may be lost in the context of a HFD.
PMCID: PMC4339406  PMID: 25542371
Non-human primate; marmosets; ovariectomy; estrogen; estrogen receptors; diet; high fat; serotonin; CRF receptors; tryptophan hydroxylase; serotonin reuptake transporter; serotonin autoreceptor; monoamine oxidase
13.  Innate and adaptive immunity in the development of depression: An update on current knowledge and technological advances 
The inflammation theory of depression, proposed over 20 years ago, was influenced by early studies on T cell responses and since then has been a stimulus for numerous research projects aimed at understanding the relationship between immune function and depression. Observational studies have shown that indicators of immunity, especially C reactive protein and proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin 6, are associated with an increased risk of depressive disorders, although the evidence from randomized trials remains limited and only few studies have assessed the interplay between innate and adaptive immunity in depression. In this paper, we review current knowledge on the interactions between central and peripheral innate and adaptive immune molecules and the potential role of immune-related activation of microglia, inflammasomes and indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase in the development of depressive symptoms. We highlight how combining basic immune methods with more advanced ‘omics’ technologies would help us to make progress in unravelling the complex associations between altered immune function and depressive disorders, in the identification of depression-specific biomarkers and in developing immunotherapeutic treatment strategies that take individual variability into account.
Graphical abstract
•Depressive patients have often (but not always) alterations in innate and adaptive immunity.•Depression-related immunological changes interact with neurohormonal circuits.•Increased production of inflammasomes and neurotoxic catabolites may be part of this process.•Future research on immunity and depression will benefit from novel omics techniques.
PMCID: PMC4736094  PMID: 26631274
Depression; Inflammation; Cytokine; Innate immunity; Adaptive immunity; Omics technologies
14.  Purinergic System Dysfunction in Mood Disorders: A Key Target for Developing Improved Therapeutics 
Uric acid and purines (such as adenosine) regulate mood, sleep, activity, appetite, cognition, memory, convulsive threshold, social interaction, drive, and impulsivity. A link between purinergic dysfunction and mood disorders was first proposed a century ago. Interestingly, a recent nationwide population-based study showed elevated risk of gout in subjects with bipolar disorder (BD), and a recent meta-analysis and systematic review of placebo-controlled trials of adjuvant purinergic modulators confirmed their benefits in bipolar mania. Uric acid may modulate energy and activity levels, with higher levels associated with higher energy and BD spectrum. Several recent genetic studies suggest that the purinergic system particularly the modulation of P1 and P2 receptor subtypes—plays a role in mood disorders, lending credence to this model. Nucleotide concentrations can be measured using brain spectroscopy, and ligands for in vivo positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of adenosine (P1) receptors have been developed, thus allowing potential target engagement studies. This review discusses the key role of the purinergic system in the pathophysiology of mood disorders. Focusing on this promising therapeutic target may lead to the development of therapies with antidepressant, mood stabilization, and cognitive effects.
PMCID: PMC4262688  PMID: 25445063
bipolar disorder; depression; purines; uric acid; mania; treatment
15.  Maternal Thyroid Autoantibody and Elevated Risk of Autism in a National Birth Cohort 
Autoimmune disruption may contribute to risk for autism; however, since previous studies relied upon clinical diagnoses, exposure misclassification and recall bias are limitations. Thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPO-Ab) is an autoantibody involved in autoimmune thyroiditis. We aimed to test the a priori hypothesis that positivity to maternal serum TPO-Ab (TPO-Ab+) (defined as > 156 IU/ml) during pregnancy is related to childhood autism.
The study was based on a nested case-control design of the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism (FiPS-A), a national birth cohort that includes prospectively drawn archived maternal serum specimens from virtually the entire pregnant population of Finland. Cases of childhood autism (ICD-10 F84.0) born from 1987–2005 were ascertained by performing linkages between national birth and inpatient/outpatient registries. All diagnosed cases of childhood autism in Finland over the birth years, and comparison subjects without ASD or severe/profound intellectual disability were matched 1:1 on date of birth, sex, birthplace, and residence in Finland. Maternal serum specimens were assayed in 967 matched case-control pairs for TPO-Ab by a chemiluminescent microparticle immunoassay blind to case/control status. Data were analyzed by conditional logistic regression for matched sets.
The prevalence of maternal TPO-Ab+ was significantly increased in pregnancies giving rise to autism cases (6.15%) compared to controls (3.54%). The odds of autism were increased by nearly 80% among offspring of mothers who were TPO-Ab+ during pregnancy (OR=1.78, 95% CI=1.16–2.75, p=0.009), compared to mothers negative for this autoantibody. There was also a significant relationship between maternal TPO-Ab defined as a continuous variable and odds of autism (OR=1.09, 95% CI=1.01, 1.17, p=0.02). Measures of maternal thyroid hormones did not differ between groups.
These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that a class of known maternal autoimmune disorders is related to autism in offspring.
PMCID: PMC4276336  PMID: 25445476
thyroid; autoantibody; autism; birth cohort; autoimmune; epidemiology
16.  Behavioral alterations in rat offspring following maternal immune activation and ELR-CXC chemokine receptor antagonism during pregnancy: Implications for neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorders 
Research suggests that maternal immune activation (MIA) during pregnancy increases the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders including schizophrenia and autism in the offspring. Current theories suggest that inflammatory mediators including cytokines and chemokines may underlie the increased risk of these disorders in humans. For example, elevated maternal interleukin-8 (IL-8) during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of schizophrenia in the offspring. Given this association, the present experiments examined ELR-CXC chemokines CXCL1 and CXCL2, rodent homologues of human IL-8, and activation of their receptors (CXCR1 and CXCR2) in an established rodent model of MIA. Pregnant Long Evans rats were treated with the viral mimetic polyinosinic–polycytidylic acid (polyI:C; 4 mg/kg, i.v.) on gestational day 15. Protein analysis using multiplex assays and ELISA showed that polyI:C significantly increased maternal serum concentrations of interleukin-1β, tumor necrosis factor, and CXCL1 3 h after administration. Subsequent experiments tested the role of elevated maternal CXCL1 on behavior of the offspring by administering a CXCR1/CXCR2 antagonist (G31P; 500 μg/kg, i.p.; 1 h before, 48 and 96 h after polyI:C treatment). The male offspring of dams treated with polyI:C demonstrated subtle impairments in prepulse inhibition (PPI), impaired associative and crossmodal recognition memory, and altered behavioral flexibility in an operant test battery. While G31P did not completely reverse the behavioral impairments caused by polyI:C, it enhanced PPI during adolescence and strategy set-shifting and reversal learning during young adulthood. These results suggest that while polyI:C treatment significantly increases maternal CXCL1, elevations of this chemokine are not solely responsible for the effects of polyI:C on the behavior of the offspring.
PMCID: PMC4464825  PMID: 25445065 CAMSID: cams4644
Crossmodal memory; Interleukin-8; Polyi:C; Schizophrenia; Set-shifting
17.  Decreased functional connectivity in an executive control network is related to impaired executive function in Internet gaming disorder 
Resting brain spontaneous neural activities across cortical regions have been correlated with specific functional properties in psychiatric groups. Individuals with Internet gaming disorder (IGD) demonstrate impaired executive control. Thus, it is important to examine executive control networks (ECNs) during resting states and their relationships to executive control during task performance.
Thirty-five IGD and 36 healthy control participants underwent a resting-state fMRI scan and performed a Stroop task inside and outside of the MRI scanner. Correlations between Stroop effect and functional connectivity among ECN regions of interest (ROIs) were calculated within and between groups.
IGD subjects show lower functional connectivity in ECNs than do HC participants during resting state; functional-connectivity measures in ECNs were negatively correlated with Stroop effect and positively correlated with brain activations in executive-control regions across groups. Within groups, negative trends were found between Stroop effect and functional connectivity in ECNs in IGD and HC groups, separately; positive trends were found between functional connectivity in ECNs and brain activations in Stroop task in IGD and HC groups, separately.
Higher functional connectivity in ECNs may underlie better executive control and may provide resilience with respect to IGD. Lower functional connectivity in ECNs may represent an important feature in understanding and treating IGD.
PMCID: PMC4473260  PMID: 25445475
Executive control network; resting state fMRI; functional connectivity; Internet gaming disorder; behavioral addiction
18.  Effects of dopamine D1 modulation of the anterior cingulate cortex in a fear conditioning procedure 
The anterior cingulate cortex (AC) component of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been implicated in attention and working memory as measured by trace conditioning. Since dopamine (DA) is a key modulator of mPFC function, the present study evaluated the role of DA receptor agents in rat AC, using trace fear conditioning. A conditioned stimulus (CS, noise) was followed by an unconditioned stimulus (US, shock) with or without a 10 s trace interval interposed between these events in a between-subjects design. Conditioned suppression of drinking was assessed in response to presentation of the CS or an experimental background stimulus (flashing lights, previously presented for the duration of the conditioning session). The selective D1 agonist SKF81297 (0.05 μg/side) or D1 antagonist SCH23390 (0.5 μg/side) was administered by intra-cerebral microinfusion directly into AC. It was predicted that either of these manipulations should be sufficient to impair trace (but not delay) conditioning. Counter to expectation, there was no effect of DA D1 modulation on trace conditioning as measured by suppression to the noise CS. However, rats infused with SKF81297 acquired stronger conditioned suppression to the experimental background stimulus than those infused with SCH23390 or saline. Thus, the DA D1 agonist SKF81297 increased conditioned suppression to the contextual background light stimulus but was otherwise without effect on fear conditioning.
•Previous studies have shown the role of anterior cingulate in trace conditioning.•DA D1 receptor agents were micro-infused into anterior cingulate and tested in a CER procedure.•Neither SKF81297 nor SCH23390 impaired trace conditioning.•Contextual fear conditioning was increased by treatment with SCH23390.
PMCID: PMC4681364  PMID: 26343307
Dopamine D1; Anterior cingulate; Trace conditioning; Contextual conditioning; Rat
20.  Adverse performance effects of acute lorazepam administration in elderly long-term users: pharmacokinetic and clinical predictors 
The benzodiazepine lorazepam is widely utilized in the treatment of elderly individuals with anxiety disorders and related conditions. Negative effects of acute lorazepam administration on cognitive performance, especially memory, have been reported in both previously untreated elderly and in individuals who have received short term (up to three weeks) treatment with therapeutic doses. However, it remains unclear if these adverse cognitive effects also persist after long-term use, which is frequently found in clinical practice.
Cognitively intact elderly individuals (n=37) on long-term (at least three months) daily treatment with lorazepam were studied using a double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over study design. Subjects were administered their highest daily unit dose of lorazepam (0.25 – 3.00 mg) orplacebo on different days, approximately 1 week apart in a random order, and were assessed on memory, psychomotor speed, and subjective mood states
Subjects had significantly poorer recall and slowed psychomotor performance following acute lorazepam administration. There were no significant effects on self-ratings of mood, sedation, or anxiety in the whole group, but secondary analyses suggested a differential response in subjects with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
The reduced recall and psychomotor slowing that we observed, along with an absence of significant therapeutic benefits, following acute lorazepam administration in elderly long-term users reinforces the importance of cognitive toxicity as a clinical factor in benzodiazepine use, especially in this population.
PMCID: PMC4258460  PMID: 25195839
Aging; Lorazepam; Cognitive Toxicity; Memory Loss; Psychomotor Slowing; Benzodiazepines
21.  Changes in brain activation following psychotherapy for youth with mood dysregulation at familial risk for bipolar disorder 
Psychotherapy for youth with mood dysregulation can help to stabilize mood and improve functioning, but the neural mechanisms of this improvement are not known. In this study we investigated changes in brain activation underlying improvement in mood symptoms.
Twenty-four subjects (ages 13–17) participated: 12 patients with clinically significant symptoms of depression and/or mania, and 12 healthy comparison subjects (HC) matched for age and sex. All subjects completed functional magnetic resonance imaging while viewing facial expressions. The patients then received up to 4 months of psychotherapy and were rescanned at end of treatment. Whole brain differences between patient and control groups were assessed with a voxel wise analysis. Changes in activation from pre to post treatment within the patient group were tested for correlation with changes in mood symptoms
At baseline the patient group had hypoactivation in the DLPFC and hyperactivation in the posterior cingulate cortex compared to the HC group. Between pre- and post-treatment activation increased in the DLPFC and decreased in the amygdala. Increases in DLPFC activation were significantly correlated with improvement in mania symptoms.
Enhancement of frontal executive control brain regions may underlie improvement in mood dysregulation in pediatric patients at familial risk for bipolar disorder.
PMCID: PMC4258439  PMID: 25283342
fMRI; bipolar; psychotherapy; prefrontal; pediatric
22.  Chronic alcohol exposure differentially affects activation of female locus coeruleus neurons and the subcellular distribution of corticotropin releasing factor receptors 
Understanding the neurobiological bases for sex differences in alcohol dependence is needed to help guide the development of individualized therapies for alcohol abuse disorders. In the present study, alcohol-induced adaptations in (1) anxiety-like behavior, (2) patterns of c-Fos activation and (3) subcellular distribution of corticotropin releasing factor receptor in locus coeruleus (LC) neurons was investigated in male and female Sprague-Dawley rats that were chronically exposed to ethanol using a liquid diet. Results confirm and extend reports by others showing that chronic ethanol exposure produces an anxiogenic-like response in both male and female subjects. Ethanol-induced sex differences were observed with increased c-Fos expression in LC neurons of female ethanol-treated subjects compared to controls or male subjects. Results also reveal sex differences in the subcellular distribution of the CRFr in LC-noradrenergic neurons with female subjects exposed to ethanol exhibiting a higher frequency of plasmalemmal CRFrs. These adaptations have implications for LC neuronal activity and its neural targets across the sexes. Considering the important role of the LC in ethanol-induced activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the present results indicate important sex differences in feed-forward regulation of the HPA axis that may render alcohol dependent females more vulnerable to subsequent stress exposure.
PMCID: PMC4258542  PMID: 25149913
locus coeruleus; chronic alcohol; sex differences; CRFr; c-Fos
23.  Assessment of non-BDNF neurotrophins and GDNF levels after depression treatment with sertraline and transcranial direct current stimulation in a factorial, randomized, sham-controlled trial (SELECT-TDCS): An exploratory analysis 
The neurotrophic hypothesis of depression states that the major depressive episode is associated with lower neurotrophic factors levels, which increase with amelioration of depressive symptoms. However, this hypothesis has not been extended to investigate neurotrophic factors other than the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). We therefore explored whether plasma levels of neurotrophins 3 (NT-3) and 4 (NT-4), nerve growth factor (NGF) and glial cell line derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) changed after antidepressant treatment and correlated with treatment response. Seventy-three patients with moderate-to-severe, antidepressant-free unipolar depression were assigned to a pharmacological (sertraline) and a non-pharmacological (transcranial direct current stimulation, tDCS) intervention in a randomized, 2 × 2, placebo-controlled design. The plasma levels of NT-3, NT-4, NGF and GDNF were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay before and after a 6-week treatment course and analyzed according to clinical response and allocation group. We found that tDCS and sertraline (separately and combined) produced significant improvement in depressive symptoms. Plasma levels of all neurotrophic factors were similar across groups at baseline and remained significantly unchanged regardless of the intervention and of clinical response. Also, baseline plasma levels were not associated with clinical response. To conclude, in this 6-week placebo-controlled trial, NT-3, NT-4, NGF and GDNF plasma levels did not significantly change with sertraline or tDCS. These data suggest that these neurotrophic factors are not surrogate biomarkers of treatment response or involved in the antidepressant mechanisms of tDCS.
PMCID: PMC4258544  PMID: 25172025
GDNF; Major depressive disorder; Neurotrophins; Sertraline; Transcranial direct current stimulation
24.  Recent advances with a novel model organism: Alcohol tolerance and sensitization in zebrafish (Danio rerio) 
Alcohol abuse and dependence is a rapidly growing problem with few treatment options available. The zebrafish has become a popular animal model for behavioural neuroscience. This species may be appropriate for investigating the effects of alcohol on the vertebrate brain. In the current review, we examine the literature by discussing how alcohol alters behaviour in zebrafish and how it may affect biological correlates. We focus on two phenomena that are often examined in the context of alcohol-induced neuroplasticity. Alcohol tolerance (a progressive decrease in the effect of alcohol over time) is often observed following continuous (chronic) exposure to low concentrations of alcohol. Alcohol sensitization also called reverse tolerance (a progressive increase in the effect of alcohol over time) is often observed following repeated discrete exposures to higher concentrations of alcohol. These two phenomena may underlie the development and maintenance of alcohol addiction. The phenotypical characterization of these responses in zebrafish may be the first important steps in establishing this species as a tool for the analysis of the molecular and neurobiological mechanisms underlying human alcohol addiction.
PMCID: PMC4225077  PMID: 24593943
alcohol tolerance; alcohol sensitisation; alcohol addiction; ethanol; behavioural phenotyping; zebrafish
25.  Differential Effects of Intermittent versus Continuous Haloperidol Treatment throughout Adolescence on Haloperidol Sensitization and Social Behavior in Adulthood 
Animal work on the behavioral effects of antipsychotic treatment suggests that different dosing regimens could affect drug sensitivity differently, with an intermittent treatment regimen tending to cause a sensitization effect, while a continuous treatment causing a tolerance. In this study, we explored how haloperidol (HAL) sensitization induced throughout adolescence and tested in adulthood was differentially impacted by these two dosing regimens in the conditioned avoidance response (CAR) test. We also examined how these two dosing regiments affected social interaction and social memory in adulthood. Male adolescent Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with HAL via either osmotic minipump (HAL-0.25 CONT; 0.25 mg/kg/day, n = 14) or daily injection (HAL-0.05 INT; 0.05 mg/kg/injection/day, sc, n = 14), or sterile water (n = 14) from postnatal days (PND) 44 to 71. HAL sensitization was assessed in a challenge test in which all rats were injected with HAL (0.025 and 0.05 mg/kg, sc) on PND 80 and PND 82. Two days later, half of the rats from each group (n = 7/group) were assayed in two 4-trial social interaction tests in which a subject rat was given four 5-min social encounters with a familiar or novel juvenile rat (PND 35–40) at 10 min intervals. Another half were tested in a quinpirole-induced hyperlocomotion assay to assess the potential HAL-induced change in D2-mediated function. Results show that only the intermittent dosing group under the HAL 0.05 mg/kg challenge showed a robust sensitization effect as rats in this group made significantly fewer avoidance responses than those in the vehicle and HAL-0.25 CONT groups. Adolescent HAL treatment did not affect social behavior and social memory, as rats from all 3 groups exhibited a similar level of social interaction and showed a similar level of sensitivity to the change of social stimuli. Similarly, adolescent HAL treatment also did not produce a long-lasting change in D2 function, as all 3 groups exhibited a similar level of increase in motor activity under quinpirole challenge. These findings suggest that HAL sensitization is a dosing-specific phenomenon. It is more likely to be seen under an intermittent dosing regimen than under a continuous dosing one. The findings that the intermittent HAL treatment did not impair social functioning and did not alter D2 function suggest a dissociation between drug-induced alterations in drug sensitivity and those in social function and neuroreceptors.
PMCID: PMC4134967  PMID: 24942467
Antipsychotic drug; Sensitization; Adolescence; Conditioned avoidance response; Haloperidol; Social behavior

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