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Adolescent neurostimulation of dopamine circuit reverses genetic deficits in frontal cortex function


Authors: Surjeet Mastwal, Xinjian Li, Rianne Stowell, Matthew Manion, Wenyu Zhang, Nam-Shik Kim, Ki-Jun Yoon, Hongjun Song, Guo-Li Ming, Kuan Hong Wang
Publication: eLife
Date: October 13, 2023
Link to article: https://elifesciences.org/articles/87414


Dopamine system dysfunction is implicated in adolescent-onset neuropsychiatric disorders. Although psychosis symptoms can be alleviated by antipsychotics, cognitive symptoms remain unresponsive and novel paradigms investigating the circuit substrates underlying cognitive deficits are critically needed. The frontal cortex and its dopaminergic input from the midbrain are implicated in cognitive functions and undergo maturational changes during adolescence. Here, we used mice carrying mutations in Arc or Disc1 to model mesofrontal dopamine circuit deficiencies and test circuit-based neurostimulation strategies to restore cognitive functions. We found that in a memory-guided spatial navigation task, frontal cortical neurons were activated coordinately at the decision-making point in wild-type but not Arc-/- mice. Chemogenetic stimulation of midbrain dopamine neurons or optogenetic stimulation of frontal cortical dopamine axons in a limited adolescent period consistently reversed genetic defects in mesofrontal innervation, task-coordinated neuronal activity, and memory-guided decision-making at adulthood. Furthermore, adolescent stimulation of dopamine neurons also reversed the same cognitive deficits in Disc1+/- mice. Our findings reveal common mesofrontal circuit alterations underlying the cognitive deficits caused by two different genes and demonstrate the feasibility of adolescent neurostimulation to reverse these circuit and behavioral deficits. These results may suggest developmental windows and circuit targets for treating cognitive deficits in neurodevelopmental disorders.

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