Journal Article

Functional and Anatomical Aspects of Prefrontal Pathology in Schizophrenia

Patricia S. Goldman-Rakic and Lynn D. Selemon

in Schizophrenia Bulletin

Published on behalf of Maryland Psychiatric Research Center

Volume 23, issue 3, pages 437-458
Published in print January 1997 | ISSN: 0586-7614
Published online January 1997 | e-ISSN: 1745-1701 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/schbul/23.3.437
Functional and Anatomical Aspects of Prefrontal Pathology in Schizophrenia

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Clinical and experimental research have provided anatomical, pharmacological, and behavioral evidence for a prominent prefrontal dysfunction in schizophrenia. Negative symptoms and behavioral disorganization in the disorder can be understood as a failure in the working memory functions of the prefrontal cortex by which information is updated on a moment-to-moment basis or retrieved from long-term stores, held in mind, and used to guide behavior by ideas, concepts, and stored knowledge. This article recounts efforts to dissect the cellular and circuit basis of working memory with the goal of extending the insights gained from the study of normal brain organization in animal models to an understanding of the clinical disorder; it includes recent neuropathological findings that indicate that neural dystrophy rather than cell loss predominates in schizophrenia. Evidence from a variety of studies is accumulating to indicate that dopamine has a major role in regulating the excitability of the cortical neurons upon which the working memory function of the prefrontal cortex depends. Interactions between monoamines and a compromised cortical circuitry may hold the key to the salience of frontal lobe symptoms in schizophrenia, in spite of widespread pathological changes. We outline several direct and indirect intercellular mechanisms for modulating working memory function in the prefrontal cortex based on the localization of dopamine receptors on the distal dendrites and spines of glutamatergic pyramidal cells and on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic interneurons in the prefrontal cortex. Understanding the interactions between the major cellular constituents of cortical circuits—pyramidal and nonpyramidal cells—is a necessary step in unraveling the receptor mechanisms, which could lead to an effective pharmacological treatment of negative and cognitive symptoms, as well as improved insight into the pathophysiological basis of the disorder.

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Subjects: Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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