Medical center identifies role of neuron creation in anxiety disorders

January 24, 2013
Young adult-born neurons (in red) have been engineered to express a protein called chanelrhodopsin, which enables researchers to selectively activate them and study their function in vivo.

(Medical Xpress)—People with anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) often have impaired pattern separation—the process by which similar experiences are transformed into distinct memories. They often react to events that resemble their original trauma, even when in safe situations.

In a recent review in Nature Neuroscience, Rene Hen, PhD, of Columbia's Department of Psychiatry and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, and colleagues suggest that drugs that promote neurogenesis—the production of new neurons—may play a potential role in treating impaired pattern separation.

In the hippocampus, the —which  uses pattern separation to form —is one of two areas of the brain where neurogenesis takes place. Although the extent of adult neurogenesis in humans, as well as its role in stress responses, is controversial, Hen and his team think that a reduction of hippocampal neurogenesis contributes to the impaired pattern separation underlying . Structural MRI studies of the brains of PTSD patients have shown decreased volume of the dentate gyrus. Two potential approaches to improving pattern separation are to increase the number of adult-generated neurons or to modify the mature neurons so they are better able to process information.

The researchers emphasize the need to develop better imaging techniques to observe ongoing neurogenesis in the human brain. Eventually, clinical trials could be carried out with patients who show both impairment in pattern-separation tasks and decreased neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus.

"Neurogenesis and generalization: a new approach to stratify and treat anxiety disorders" appeared in the December 2012 issue of .

Explore further: Memory formation triggered by stem cell development

More information:

Related Stories

Memory formation triggered by stem cell development

February 23, 2012

Researchers at the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics have discovered an answer to the long-standing mystery of how brain cells can both remember new memories while also maintaining older ones.

Understanding the chemical mechanism behind antidepressants

September 21, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Millions of Americans take antidepressants such as Prozac, Effexor, and Paxil, but the explanations for how they work never satisfied René Hen, a professor of psychiatry, neuroscience and pharmacology.

Recommended for you

Natural compound reduces signs of aging in healthy mice

October 27, 2016

Much of human health hinges on how well the body manufactures and uses energy. For reasons that remain unclear, cells' ability to produce energy declines with age, prompting scientists to suspect that the steady loss of efficiency ...

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Mitochondria control stem cell fate

October 27, 2016

What happens in intestinal epithelial cells during a chronic illness? Basic research conducted at the Chair of Nutrition and Immunology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) addressed this question by generating a new ...

Scientists develop 'world-first' 3-D mammary gland model

October 27, 2016

A team of researchers from Cardiff University and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has succeeded in creating a three-dimensional mammary gland model that will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.