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Concept: Prepulse inhibition


The complex pathogenesis of anxiety and panic disorder in particular has been suggested to be influenced by genetic factors such as the adenosine A2A receptor gene (ADORA2A) 1976T>C polymorphism (rs5751876) as well as neuropsychological factors such as early information processing deficits. In 114 healthy individuals (males=57, females=57) controlled for anxiety sensitivity (AS), a multi-level risk model of the development of anxiety was applied: Genetic (ADORA2A 1976T>C variant) and biochemical (300mg of caffeine citrate vs. placebo) factors were hypothesized to influence early information processing as measured by the prepulse inhibition/facilitation paradigm (stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs) of 60, 120, 240, 480 and 2000ms between prepulses and startle stimuli). A fourfold interaction of genotype, intervention, gender, and SOAs was discerned. Stratification by SOAs revealed that at 120ms and 240ms SOAs in the caffeine condition, PPI was impaired in female ADORA2A 1976TT risk genotype carriers as compared to male ADORA2A 1976TT homozygotes, while no significant effects were observed in the ADORA2A 1976CC/CT non-risk genotype or placebo group. Only in high anxiety sensitive probands, a significant intervention effect was discerned with impaired prepulse facilitation (PPF) due to caffeine. The present results point to an impaired ability to selectively process very early information and to gate irrelevant sensory information, respectively, in female ADORA2A 1976TT homozygotes in response to caffeine, providing further evidence for the adenosinergic system to be involved in the pathogenesis of anxiety.

Concepts: Genetics, Sensory system, Caffeine, Panic disorder, Adenosine receptor, Panic attack, Adenosine A1 receptor, Prepulse inhibition


Metabolic and behavioural effects of, and interactions between Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are influenced by dose and administration route. Therefore we investigated, in Wistar rats, effects of pulmonary, oral and subcutaneous (sc.) THC, CBD and THC+CBD. Concentrations of THC, its metabolites 11-OH-THC and THC-COOH, and CBD in serum and brain were determined over 24h, locomotor activity (open field) and sensorimotor gating (prepulse inhibition, PPI) were also evaluated. In line with recent knowledge we expected metabolic and behavioural interactions between THC and CBD. While cannabinoid serum and brain levels rapidly peaked and diminished after pulmonary administration, sc. and oral administration produced long-lasting levels of cannabinoids with oral reaching the highest brain levels. Except pulmonary administration, CBD inhibited THC metabolism resulting in higher serum/brain levels of THC. Importantly, following sc. and oral CBD alone treatments, THC was also detected in serum and brain. S.c. cannabinoids caused hypolocomotion, oral treatments containing THC almost complete immobility. In contrast, oral CBD produced mild hyperlocomotion. CBD disrupted, and THC tended to disrupt PPI, however their combination did not. In conclusion, oral administration yielded the most pronounced behavioural effects which corresponded to the highest brain levels of cannabinoids. Even though CBD potently inhibited THC metabolism after oral and sc. administration, unexpectedly it had minimal impact on THC-induced behaviour. Of central importance was the novel finding that THC can be detected in serum and brain after administration of CBD alone which, if confirmed in humans and given the increasing medical use of CBD-only products, might have important legal and forensic ramifications.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Metabolism, Lipid, Cannabinoid receptor, Cannabis, Cannabinoid, Cannabidiol, Prepulse inhibition


Threatening stimuli encountered in peripersonal space (PPS) are processed differently from those encountered in extrapersonal space (EPS). This phenomenon is attributed to tonic top-down modulation. We hypothesized that prepulse inhibition (PPI) of a reflex, which has a protective function, may change according to whether the conditioning stimulus appears in PPS or EPS. We aimed to compare the strength of the PPI according to whether stimulation was delivered in PPS or EPS.

Concepts: Mathematics, Key, Gottfried Leibniz, Prepulse inhibition, Dominant


Schizophrenia involves positive, negative and cognitive symptoms, as well as comorbidity with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle response is a measure of sensorimotor gating that is impaired in schizophrenia and animal models of the disease. Remarkably, impaired PPI has been related to other schizophrenia-like features in rodent models, such as cognitive deficits and hyperactivity. However, it remains to be investigated whether deficient PPI and increased exploratory activity are associated in genetically heterogeneous (outbred) naïve animals. This study was undertaken to evaluate the relationships among PPI and other schizophrenia-related symptoms, such as augmented exploratory activity, anxiety and compulsivity in the genetically heterogeneous (outbred) NIH-HS rat stock (HS) and in the genetically-selected inbred Roman High-Avoidance (RHA) and Low-avoidance (RLA) rats. Animals underwent the following tests: open-field (exploratory activity), elevated zero-maze (anxiety-like behavior), marble burying (compulsive-like behavior), and PPI. Three groups of HS rats were formed according to their PPI scores, i.e. Low-PPI, Medium-PPI and High-PPI. The HS Low-PPI group displayed higher exploratory activity in the open-field than the HS Medium-PPI and HS High-PPI groups. Likewise, compared with their RLA counterparts, RHA rats exhibited lower PPI and more intense exploratory activity in the open-field test. Correlational and factorial analyses of the whole HS sample and the RHA/RLA data globally corroborated the results of the PPI-stratified HS subgroups. These data suggest that such a consistent association between impaired PPI and increased exploratory activity in outbred HS and inbred RHA/RLA rats is a relevant parameter that must be taken into account when modeling clusters of schizophrenia-relevant symptoms.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Genetics, Rat, Mental disorder, Rodent, Schizophrenia, Prepulse inhibition


The pathophysiological role of α6 subunit-containing GABAA receptors (α6GABAARs), which are mainly expressed in cerebellar granule cells, remains unclear. Recently, we demonstrated that hispidulin, a flavonoid isolated from a local herb that remitted a patient’s intractable motor tics, attenuated methamphetamine-induced hyperlocomotion in mice as a positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of cerebellar α6GABAARs. Here, using hispidulin and a selective α6GABAAR PAM, the pyrazoloquinolinone Compound 6, we revealed an unprecedented role of cerebellar α6GABAARs in disrupted prepulse inhibition (PPI), which reflects sensorimotor gating deficits manifested in several neuropsychiatric disorders.

Concepts: Ligand, Granule cell, GABAA receptor, GABA receptor, Prepulse inhibition


We investigated the association between hypnotizability, COMT polymorphism, P50 suppression ratio, and prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle response (ASR) in 21 high (HH) and 19 low (LH) hypnotizable subjects. The frequency of Met/Met carriers of COMT polymorphysm was higher in HH than in LH group (33.3% versus 10.6%, p = .049). Increased ASR amplitude and latency and decreased prepulse inhibition at 120 ms lead interval were found in the HH compared to the LH group. The effect of COMT genotype on prepulse inhibition was observed in LH group only. No between-group differences in P50 measures were found. The obtained results suppose the participation of dopamine system in mechanisms of hypnotizability and different allocation of attentional resources in HH and LH subjects.

Concepts: Genetics, Genotype, Sensory system, Sound, Dopamine, Prepulse inhibition, Moro reflex, Startle reaction


Despite their essential roles in signal processing in the brain, the functions of interneurons currently remain unclear in humans. We recently developed a method using the prepulse inhibition of sensory evoked cortical responses for functional measurements of interneurons. When a sensory feature is abruptly changed in a continuous sensory stimulus, change-related cortical responses are recorded using MEG. By inserting a weak change stimulus (prepulse) before the test change stimulus, it is possible to observe the inhibition of the test response. By manipulating the prepulse-test interval (PTI), several peaks appear in inhibition, suggesting the existence of temporally distinct mechanisms. We herein attempted to separate these components through the oral administration of diazepam and baclofen. The test stimulus and prepulse were an abrupt increase in sound pressure in a continuous click train of 10 and 5 dB, respectively. The results obtained showed that the inhibition at PTIs of 10 and 20 ms was significantly greater with diazepam than with the placebo administration, suggesting increased GABAA-mediated inhibition. Baclofen decreased inhibition at PTIs of 40 and 50 ms, which may have been due to the activation of GABAB autoreceptors. Therefore, the present study separated at least two inhibitory mechanisms pharmacologically.

Concepts: Brain, Neurology, Auditory system, Sensory system, Topology, Change, Media technology, Prepulse inhibition


Sensorimotor gating measured by prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle response (ASR) has been proposed as one of the most promising electrophysiological endophenotypes of schizophrenia. During the past decade, a number of publications have reported significant associations between genetic polymorphisms and PPI in samples of schizophrenia patients and healthy volunteers. However, an overall evaluation of the robustness of these results has not been published so far. Therefore, we performed the first meta-analysis of published and unpublished associations between gene polymorphisms and PPI of ASR. Unpublished associations between genetic polymorphisms and PPI were derived from three independent samples. In total, 120 single observations from 16 independent samples with 2660 study participants and 43 polymorphisms were included. After correction for multiple testing based on false discovery rate and considering the number of analyzed polymorphisms, significant associations were shown for four variants, even though none of these associations survived a genome-wide correction (P<5∗10-8). These results imply that PPI might be modulated by four genotypes - COMT rs4680 (primarily in males), GRIK3 rs1027599, TCF4 rs9960767, and PRODH rs385440 - indicating a role of these gene variations in the development of early information processing deficits in schizophrenia. However, the overall impact of single genes on PPI is still rather small suggesting that PPI is - like the disease phenotype - highly polygenic. Future genome-wide analyses studies with large sample sizes will enhance our understanding on the genetic architecture of PPI.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Genotype, Allele, Evolution, Prepulse inhibition, Startle reaction


Treatments for the positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia have been explored for decades, but no completely successful therapy has been found as yet. Metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5), which potentiates N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in brain regions implicated in schizophrenia, has become a novel drug target in the treatment of schizophrenia, especially for the mGluR5-positive allosteric modulators. Individuals with schizophrenia show deficits in prepulse inhibition (PPI), which is an operational measurement of sensorimotor gating. In this review, we focus on pharmacological, neurodevelopmental, and genetic animal models of disrupted PPI, with the aim of showing the potential role of mGluR5 in modulating the activity of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and their contributions toward the treatment of schizophrenia. As, the impairment of attentional modulation of PPI, but not that of baseline PPI, in individuals with schizophrenia is correlated with their symptom severity, this review also highlights that investigation of attentional modulation of PPI is critical for studying both cognitive impairments and glutamatergic dysfunctions of schizophrenia.

Concepts: Nervous system, Receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Module, Metabotropic receptor, Schizophrenia, Neuropsychopharmacology, Prepulse inhibition


Prepulse inhibition (PPI) of startle is being explored both as an indicator of target engagement for, and a biomarker predicting sensitivity to, pro-cognitive effects of drugs. We now report the effects of the pro-attentional drug, d-amphetamine, on PPI and neurocognition in antipsychotic-medicated schizophrenia patients and healthy subjects (HS) who were also tested in a targeted cognitive training (TCT) module. 44 HS and 38 schizophrenia patients completed a double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study of the effects of a single dose of amphetamine (10 mg po) on PPI and MATRICS Consensus Cognitive Battery (MCCB) performance; TCT results were previously reported from 60 of these subjects. Moderators predicting AMPH sensitivity were assessed, including the rs4680 single nucleotide polymorphism for catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT). After placebo, patients exhibited PPI deficits with 60 ms prepulse intervals; these deficits were ‘rescued’ by amphetamine. The magnitude of amphetamine-enhanced PPI was greater in patients than in HS (p<0.032), and was associated with positive symptoms (p<0.007), antipsychotic load (p<0.015), hedonic effects of AMPH (p<0.003) and with the presence of at least one methionine allele in rs4680 (p<0.008). No significant effects of amphetamine on MCCB performance were detected in either group, though pro-attentional effects of amphetamine in patients were associated with greater amphetamine-enhanced TCT learning. Amphetamine acutely 'normalized' PPI in antipsychotic-medicated schizophrenia patients; no concurrent acute neurocognitive changes were detected by the MCCB. Findings suggest that in the context of appropriate antipsychotic medication, a low dose of amphetamine enhances brain processes associated with higher function in schizophrenia patients, without accompanying changes in MCCB performance.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 20 November 2017. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.285.

Concepts: SNP array, Cognition, Neuropsychology, Antipsychotic, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Dopamine, Prepulse inhibition