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Journal: The international journal of neuropsychopharmacology / official scientific journal of the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum (CINP)


This review, one of a series of articles, tries to make sense of optogenetics, a recently developed technology that can be used to control the activity of genetically defined neurons with light. Cells are first genetically engineered to express a light-sensitive opsin, which is typically an ion channel, pump, or G protein-coupled receptor. When engineered cells are then illuminated with light of the correct frequency, opsin-bound retinal undergoes a conformational change that leads to channel opening or pump activation, cell depolarization or hyperpolarization, and neural activation or silencing. Since the advent of optogenetics many different opsin variants have been discovered or engineered, and it is now possible to stimulate or inhibit neuronal activity or intracellular signaling pathways on fast or slow timescales with a variety of different wavelengths of light. Optogenetics has been successfully employed to enhance our understanding of the neural circuit dysfunction underlying mood disorders, addiction, and Parkinson’s disease, and has enabled us to achieve a better understanding of the neural circuits mediating normal behavior. It has revolutionized the field of neuroscience, and has enabled a new generation of experiments that probe the causal roles of specific neural circuit components.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Signal transduction, Cell membrane, Action potential, Neurotransmitter, Membrane potential, Dopamine


Increased levels of inflammation have been associated with a poorer response to antidepressants in several clinical samples, but these findings have had been limited by low reproducibility of biomarker assays across laboratories, difficulty in predicting response probability on an individual basis, and unclear molecular mechanisms.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychometrics


The characterization of first episode of psychosis (FEP) and how they should be treated are a principal issue in actual research. Realistic, naturalistic studies are necessary to represent the entire population of FEP attended in daily practice.

Concepts: Cultural studies, Psychiatry


Cannabidiol (CBD), the main non-psychotomimetic component of the plant Cannabis sativa, exerts therapeutically promising effects on human mental health such as inhibition of psychosis, anxiety and depression. However, the mechanistic bases of CBD action are unclear. Here we investigate the potential involvement of hippocampal neurogenesis in the anxiolytic effect of CBD in mice subjected to 14 d chronic unpredictable stress (CUS). Repeated administration of CBD (30 mg/kg i.p., 2 h after each daily stressor) increased hippocampal progenitor proliferation and neurogenesis in wild-type mice. Ganciclovir administration to GFAP-thymidine kinase (GFAP-TK) transgenic mice, which express thymidine kinase in adult neural progenitor cells, abrogated CBD-induced hippocampal neurogenesis. CBD administration prevented the anxiogenic effect of CUS in wild type but not in GFAP-TK mice as evidenced in the novelty suppressed feeding test and the elevated plus maze. This anxiolytic effect of CBD involved the participation of the CB1 cannabinoid receptor, as CBD administration increased hippocampal anandamide levels and administration of the CB1-selective antagonist AM251 prevented CBD actions. Studies conducted with hippocampal progenitor cells in culture showed that CBD promotes progenitor proliferation and cell cycle progression and mimics the proliferative effect of CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor activation. Moreover, antagonists of these two receptors or endocannabinoid depletion by fatty acid amide hydrolase overexpression prevented CBD-induced cell proliferation. These findings support that the anxiolytic effect of chronic CBD administration in stressed mice depends on its proneurogenic action in the adult hippocampus by facilitating endocannabinoid-mediated signalling.

Concepts: Gene, Receptor, Cell cycle, Cannabinoid receptor, Cannabis, Cannabinoid, Cannabidiol, Cannabis sativa


Cannabinoid administration modulates both dopaminergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission. The present study examines the effects of high and low dose WIN55,212-2, a CB1 receptor agonist, on extracellular dopamine and glutamate release in vivo via brain microdialysis in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), striatum and prefrontal cortex (PFC) in parallel to its effects on locomotor activity. WIN55,212-2 increased extracellular dopamine in the NAc (1 mg/kg i.p.), striatum (0.1 and 1 mg/kg i.p.) and PFC (1 mg/kg i.p.). Glutamate release was also elevated by WIN55,212-2 in the PFC (1 mg/kg i.p.) whereas in the NAc (0.1 and 1 mg/kg i.p.) and striatum, it was reduced (1 mg/kg i.p.). WIN55,212-2 administration produced hyperlocomotion at the lower dose (0.1 mg/kg i.p.) and hypolocomotion at the higher dose (1 mg/kg i.p.). Co-administration with the CB1 antagonist, SR-141716A (0.03 mg/kg i.p.), prevented the above effects. According to the present results, WIN55,212-2 affected locomotor activity biphasically while exerting converging effects on dopamine activity but diverging effects on glutamate release between cortical and subcortical regions, especially at the higher dose. These findings emphasize the involvement of the CB1 receptor in the simultaneous modulation of dopaminergic and glutamatergic neurotransmission in brain regions involved in reward and locomotion and suggest possible underlying mechanisms of acute cannabinoid exposure and its psychoactive and behavioural manifestations.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Receptor antagonist, Cannabinoid receptor, Limbic system, Dopamine, Nucleus accumbens


Hyperforin is one of the main bioactive compounds that underlie the antidepressant actions of the medicinal plant Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort). However, the effects of a chronic hyperforin treatment on brain cells remains to be fully addressed. The following study was undertaken to further advance our understanding of the biological effects of this plant extract on neurons. Special attention was given to its impact on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) receptor TrkB and on adult hippocampal neurogenesis since they appear central to the mechanisms of action of antidepressants. The consequences of a chronic hyperforin treatment were investigated on cortical neurons in culture and on the brain of adult mice treated for 4 wk with a daily injection (i.p.) of hyperforin (4 mg/kg). Its effects on the expression of the cyclic adenosine monophosphate response element-binding protein (CREB), phospho-CREB (p-CREB), TrkB and phospho-TrkB (p-TrkB) were analysed by Western blot experiments and its impact on adult hippocampal neurogenesis was also investigated. Hyperforin stimulated the expression of TRPC6 channels and TrkB via SKF-96365-sensitive channels controlling a downstream signalling cascade involving Ca2+, protein kinase A, CREB and p-CREB. In vivo, hyperforin augmented the expression of TrkB in the cortex but not in the hippocampus where hippocampal neurogenesis remained unchanged. In conclusion, this plant extract acts on the cortical BDNF/TrkB pathway leaving adult hippocampal neurogenesis unaffected. This study provides new insights on the neuronal responses controlled by hyperforin. We propose that the cortex is an important brain structure targeted by hyperforin.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Adenosine triphosphate, Cerebral cortex, Hippocampus, Neurogenesis, St John's wort, Hyperforin


The therapeutic effect of current antidepressant drugs appears after several weeks of treatment and a significant number of patients do not respond to treatment. Here, we report the effects of the multi-modal antidepressant vortioxetine (Lu AA21004), a 5-HT3 and 5-HT7 receptor antagonist, 5-HT1B receptor partial agonist, 5-HT1A receptor agonist and 5-HT transporter (SERT) inhibitor, on rat 5-HT neurotransmission. Using in vivo electrophysiological recordings in the dorsal raphe nucleus of anaesthetized rats, we assessed the acute and subchronic effects of vortioxetine and/or the selective 5-HT3 receptor agonist, SR57227 or the selective 5-HT1A receptor agonist flesinoxan, on 5-HT neuronal firing activity. Using ex-vivo autoradiography, we correlated SERT occupancy and presumed 5-HT firing activity. The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, fluoxetine, was used as comparator. Importantly, the recovery of 5-HT neuronal firing was achieved after 1 d with vortioxetine and 14 d with fluoxetine. SR57227 delayed this recovery. In contrast, vortioxetine failed to alter the reducing action of 3 d treatment of flesinoxan. Acute dosing of vortioxetine inhibited neuronal firing activity more potently than fluoxetine. SR57227 prevented the suppressant effect of vortioxetine, but not of fluoxetine. In contrast, flesinoxan failed to modify the suppressant effect of vortioxetine acutely administered. Differently to fluoxetine, vortioxetine suppressed neuronal firing without saturating occupancy at the SERT. Vortioxetine produced a markedly faster recovery of 5-HT neuronal firing than fluoxetine. This is at least partly due to 5-HT3 receptor antagonism of vortioxetine in association with its reduced SERT occupancy.

Concepts: Receptor antagonist, Serotonin, Agonist, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Inverse agonist, Buprenorphine, 5-HT receptor, Buspirone


Background Sensation-seeking is a trait that constitutes an important vulnerability factor for a variety of psychopathologies with high social cost. However, little is understood either about the mechanisms underlying motivation for intense sensory experiences or their neuropharmacological modulation in humans. Methods Here, we first evaluate a novel paradigm to investigate sensation-seeking in humans. This test probes the extent to which participants choose either to avoid or self-administer an intense tactile stimulus (mild electric stimulation or MES), orthogonal to performance on a simple economic decision-making task. Next we investigate in a different set of participants whether this behaviour is sensitive to manipulation of dopamine D2 receptors using a within-subjects, placebo-controlled, double-blind design. Results In both samples, individuals with higher self-reported sensation-seeking chose a greater proportion of MES-associated stimuli, even when this involved sacrifice of monetary gain. Computational modelling analysis determined that people who assigned an additional positive economic value to MES-associated stimuli exhibited speeding of responses when choosing these stimuli. In contrast, those who assigned a negative value exhibited slowed responses. These findings are consistent with involvement of low-level approach-avoidance processes. Furthermore, the D2 antagonist haloperidol selectively decreased the additional economic value assigned to MES-associated stimuli in individuals who showed approach reactions to these stimuli under normal conditions (‘behavioural high sensation-seekers’). Conclusions These findings provide the first direct evidence of sensation-seeking behaviour being driven by an approach-avoidance-like mechanism, modulated by dopamine, in humans. They provide a framework for investigation of psychopathologies for which extreme sensation-seeking constitutes a vulnerability factor.

Concepts: Psychology, Perception, Dopamine receptor, Modulation, Behavior, Schizophrenia, Human behavior, Dopamine receptor D2


There is a growing appreciation of the importance of gut microbiota to health and disease. This has been driven by advances in sequencing technology and the recent findings demonstrating the important role of microbiota in common health disorders such as obesity. Moreover, the potential role of gut microbiota in influencing brain function, behaviour, and mental health has attracted the attention of neuroscientists and psychiatrists. At the 29th CINP World Congress held in Vancouver, BC, Canada in June 2014, a group of experts presented the symposium, “Gut microbiota and brain function: Relevance to psychiatric disorders” to review the latest findings in how gut microbiota may play a role in brain function, behaviour, and disease. The symposium covered a broad range of topics including gut microbiota and neuroendocrine function, the influence of gut microbiota on behaviour, probiotics as regulators of brain and behaviour, and imaging the gut-brain axis in humans. This report provides an overview of these presentations.

Concepts: Psychology, Medicine, Epidemiology, Gut flora, Nutrition, Escherichia coli, Mental disorder, Psychiatry


There is a growing recognition of the importance of the commensal intestinal microbiota in the development and later function of the central nervous system (CNS). Research using germ-free mice (GF; mice raised without any exposure to microorganisms) has provided some of the most persuasive evidence for a role of these bacteria in gut-brain signalling. Key findings show that the microbiota is necessary for normal stress responsivity, anxiety-like behaviours, sociability, and cognition. Furthermore, the microbiota maintains CNS homeostasis by regulating immune function and blood brain barrier integrity. Studies have also found that the gut microbiota influences neurotransmitter, synaptic, neurotrophic signalling systems and neurogenesis. The principle advantage of the GF mouse model is in proof-of-principle studies and that a complete microbiota or defined consortiums of bacteria can be introduced at various developmental time points. However, a GF upbringing can induce permanent neurodevelopmental deficits that may deem the model unsuitable for specific scientific queries that do not involve early life microbial deficiency. As such, alternatives and complementary strategies to the GF model are warranted and include antibiotic treatment to create microbiota-deficient animals at distinct time points across the lifespan. Increasing our understanding of the impact of the gut microbiota on brain and behaviour has the potential to inform novel management strategies for stress-related gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Concepts: Immune system, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Psychology, Brain, Bacteria, Gut flora, Neurology