Prefrontal Cortical Circuits in Schizophrenia: Molecular Vulnerabilities, and Clues for Treatments

Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Prefrontal Cortical Circuits in Schizophrenia: Molecular Vulnerabilities, and Clues for Treatments

Thought disorder in schizophrenia is worsened by stress exposure, and is associated with profound dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex, a newly evolved brain region that subserves higher cognition. Prefrontal gray matter is lost as patients descend into illness, and neurons lose vital connections. Research shows that these newly evolved prefrontal circuits are uniquely regulated at the molecular level, and are particularly sensitive to stress exposure. These findings help to explain how a variety of genetic insults can weaken prefrontal cortical function in schizophrenia, and has begun to provide strategies for novel therapeutics to protect neuronal connections.

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Presented by 
Amy F.T. Arnsten, Ph.D.
Amy F.T. Arnsten, Ph.D.
Yale School of Medicine

Albert E. Kent Professor of Neuroscience and of Psychology

2015 Goldman-Rakic Prizewinner for Cognitive Neuroscience

2008 Distinguished Investigator Grant

1998 Independent Investigator Grant

Dr. Arnsten’s research focuses on the highly evolved prefrontal cortex, elucidating the molecular mechanisms that determine the strength of network connections and cognitive abilities, with the overarching goals of understanding how genetic insults lead to symptoms of mental illness, and developing informed strategies for pharmacological treatment. Her team has identified two pharmacological agents to treat prefrontal cortical dysfunction in patients: Guanfacine, FDA-approved for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder treatment and used off-label to treat Tourette’s syndrome, frontal lobe traumatic brain injury and behavioral symptoms in Autism Spectrum Disorders; and Prazosin, currently being tested in patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Moderated by 
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

President and CEO

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., serves as the President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the largest private funder of mental health research grants. Dr. Borenstein developed the Emmy Award-nominated public television program “Healthy Minds,” and serves as host of the series. The program, which is broadcast nationwide, focuses on topics in psychiatry in order to educate the public, reduce stigma and offer a message of hope. Dr. Borenstein also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News, the newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association and as an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.