Deficits in social memory, which are seen in some mental illnesses including schizophrenia, may be the result of a decrease in inhibitory neurons.
The finding, made by researchers at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the Université Paris Descartes, France, opens the door to better understanding of the mechanisms behind social withdrawal, reduced motivation, and decreased emotional capacity, all of which are common features seen in schizophrenia patients.
Vivien Chevaleyre, PhD, group leader in neuroscience at the Université Paris Descartes, and colleagues conducted a series of electrophysiological and behavioral experiments on a mouse model of schizophrenia.
The researchers discovered a significant decrease in inhibitory CA2 neurons in the mouse model compared to a control group of normal, healthy mice. Moreover, this change was similar to what has been observed in postmortem examinations of people with schizophrenia, the team reported in the journal Neuron.
In addition, the schizophrenia mice had a significantly reduced capacity for social memory compared with to controls, suggesting that changes in the level of CA2 neurons may at least partially influence social behavior in people with schizophrenia.
Piskorowski RA, Nasrallah K, Diamantopoulou A, et al. Age-Dependent Specific Changes in Area CA2 of the Hippocampus and Social Memory Deficit in a Mouse Model of the 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. Neuron. 2016;89(1):163-76.
This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor