Re-establishing cognitive function in models of mental illness by boosting neural activity in the prefrontal cortex

The frontal cortex (FC) of the brain plays a critical role in higher cognitive functions including attention, working memory, and planning future goal-directed actions. Cognitive deficits arising from deceased neural activity within the FC (hypofrontality) are features of many forms of mental illness, including schizophrenia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dementia and addiction. Neurochemical, physiological and pharmacological research implicates reductions in the function of key neurotransmitter systems: catecholamines, glutamate and GABA.

Dr. Axierio-Cilies and team have developed a novel compound that alters key subtypes of glutamate receptors. Using optogenetic (light) stimulation of dopaminergic and glutamatergic pathways, this research will assess the usefulness of this novel compound for the treatment of clinical conditions that are attributed to a reduction of neurotransmitter function within the FC as part of a multifaceted drug development program.