Relevance of the presynaptic protein Complexin II to schizophrenia

Schizophrenia and related forms of psychosis are among the most severe, persistent and debilitating illnesses affecting young people. A key priority in the treatment of this disease is the development of novel antipsychotic drugs to address common cognitive deficits resulting from schizophrenia, which include impairment of attention, memory and executive function. These deficits are identified as being the most serious symptoms of the disease, and the degree of severity is the best predictor of how well or poorly affected individuals will fare over the long term. Dr. Alasdair Barr’s current research is focused primarily on identifying brain cell alterations associated with schizophrenia that may contribute to cognitive deficits. His team’s previous work has shown that levels of two related presynaptic proteins, complexin I (inhibitory terminals) and II (excitatory terminals) are decreased in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. They also demonstrated that lower hippocampal levels of complexin II were associated with cognitive dysfunction, representing the first description of a relationship between abnormal synaptic function and cognitive function in schizophrenia. Dr. Barr’s current work is building on these findings to further understand the role of complexins in cognition and schizophrenia.