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Science

They discover differences between neurons according to their location in the brain

Barcelona / Researchers from the Neuroscience Institute of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (INC-UAB) have shown that neurons from various areas of the striatum, a region of the brain, that express dopamine receptors have different molecular and functional characteristics depending on their anatomical location.

The research, done in mouse models and published in ‘Nature Communications’, advances in the study of neuronal subpopulations and these receptors, and opens the door to designing more specific drugs to treat diseases in which dopamine is altered, such as schizophrenia, addictions or Parkinson’s disease, explained Emma Puighermanal-Puigvert, researcher at INC-UAB and first author of the article.

According to the researcher, the discovery “will allow us to be more specific when it comes to selectively targeting the affected neurons, and reduce the side effects of the drugs.”

The striatum is a brain region responsible for motor control, habit formation, decision making, motivation and the reinforcement system, among other tasks, and its dysfunction is associated with neurological and psychiatric diseases.

One of the most important neurotransmitters in this region is dopamine, which has a wide variety of biological functions, depending on the type of receptor it binds to.

The importance of neuroanatomical position

This study has focused on dopamine D2 receptors and has shown that, contrary to what was previously thought, not all the neurons in the striatum that express these receptors have the same functions, but that the neuroanatomic position plays a key role.

Researchers have discovered hundreds of molecular markers depending on the location of the neurons, which give rise to numerous neuronal overpopulations.

The researchers have also found, among other experiments with mice, that if the dopamine levels of these animals are increased, through the administration of amphetamine, they present exaggerated movement patterns, demonstrating the key role of these receptors in the response to psychostimulants. (May 14, 2020, EFE / PracticaEspañol)

(Automatic translation)

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