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Cognition and Dopamine—D1 Receptors a Damper on Working Memory?

19 February 2009. Schizophrenia researchers are on very close terms with D2 dopamine receptors, culprits in propagating the positive symptoms of schizophrenia and the target of all currently approved antipsychotic drugs. Their D1 cousins may not be so innocent either—there is evidence that their faulty operation in prefrontal cortex can contribute to cognitive deficits and possibly negative symptoms in the disorder (reviewed in SRF Current Hypothesis by A. Abi-Dargham).

While previous research has shown that manipulating prefrontal D1 transmission affects working memory, Torkel Klingberg at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues have now found that the opposite may also be true. Writing in the February 6 issue of Science, they report that, in humans, reduction in D1 receptor binding occurs during working memory training, suggesting that downregulation of those receptors is crucial for optimal cognition. This provides indirect support for the notion that upregulation of D1 receptors could underlie working memory deficits in schizophrenia.

First author Fiona McNab and colleagues measured dopamine receptor levels after healthy volunteers had been put through intensive working memory training. At baseline, and at the end of the training, the researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure radioligand binding to both D1 and D2 receptors using the compounds SCH23390 and Raclopride, respectively. They used functional MRI measurements to identify brain regions involved in working memory, then focused on those regions of interest in the PET scans. For D1 measurements there were five regions of interest, regions where D1 is the predominant variety of dopamine receptor: the right and left posterior cortices (including parietal, temporal, and occipital cortices); the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (including right middle frontal gyrus and right superior frontal gyrus); the left frontal cortex (including left middle frontal gyrus); and the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (including the right inferior frontal gyrus). For D2 measurements they focused on the bilateral caudate and putamen.

After five weeks of intensive working memory training, in which 13 healthy male volunteers (aged 20 to 28) performed tasks that were close to their personal maximal difficulty level for 35 minutes each day, McNab and colleagues found that working memory capacity had improved. The change did not correlate with changes in D2 binding, but it did correlate with D1 binding decreases, particularly in four of the five regions of interest (both posterior cortices, the right ventrolateral and right dorsolateral prefrontal). “This is consistent with the finding that low doses of a D1 antagonist enhance the delay activity of prefrontal neurons during the performance of working memory tasks,” write the authors.

The work supports the idea that D1 receptors may contribute to working memory deficits in schizophrenia. In patients with the disease, D1 levels are indeed reportedly higher in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (see Abi-Dargham et al., 2002), which might compromise working memory tasks, according to the new research. The relationship between dopaminergic function and schizophrenia may be even more complex, however, since there is now considerable evidence for an inverted U type of dose response to dopamine—at both high and low levels cognition is impaired. Maintaining just the right balance of dopamine may be critical, and genetic or environmental stress that shifts that dynamic may predispose individuals to schizophrenia (see SRF related news story). The role played by the two receptors complicates the relationship even more, since they can often have opposite downstream effects. Any imbalance between D1-D2 might, therefore, put individuals at risk for the cognitive, positive, and negative symptoms seen in schizophrenia (for a recent review, see Durstewitz and Seamans, 2008). The study by McNab and colleagues hints that working memory training might actually help with symptoms, by reducing D1 receptor levels, but that idea needs to be empirically tested (see SRF related news story).—Tom Fagan.

Reference:
McNab F, Varrone A, Farde L, Jucaite A, Bystritsky P, Forssberg H, Klingberg T. Changes in cortical dopamine D1 receptor binding associated with cognitive training. Science. 2009, February 6; 323:800-802. Abstract

Comments on News and Primary Papers
Comment by:  Michael J. Frank
Submitted 19 February 2009
Posted 19 February 2009

McNab and colleagues provide groundbreaking evidence showing that cognitive training with working memory tasks over a five-week period impacts D1 dopamine receptor availability in prefrontal cortex. Links between prefrontal D1 receptor function and working memory are often thought to be one-directional, i.e., that better D1 function supports better working memory, but here the authors show that working memory practice reciprocally affects D1 receptors.

An influential body of empirical and theoretical research suggests that an optimal level of prefrontal D1 receptor stimulation is required for working memory function (e.g., Seemans and Yang, 2004). Because acute pharmacological targeting of prefrontal D1 receptors reliably alters working memory, causal directionality from D1 to working memory remains evident. Nevertheless, these findings cast several other studies in a new light. Namely, when a population exhibits impaired (or enhanced) working memory and PET studies indicate differences in dopaminergic function, it is no longer clear which variable is the main driving factor. For example, those who engage in cognitively demanding tasks on a day-to-day basis may show better working memory and dopaminergic correlates may be reactive rather than causal. Finally, the possibility cannot be completely discounted that the observed changes in D1 receptor binding may reflect a learned increase in prefrontal dopamine release; this would explain the general tendency for D1 receptor availability to decrease with cognitive training, due to competition with endogenous dopamine.

The McNab study also finds that only cortical D1 receptors, and not subcortical D2 receptors, were altered by cognitive training. The significance of this null effect of D2 receptors is not yet clear. First, all tasks used in the training study involved recalling the ordering of a sequence of stimuli and repeating them back when probed. While clearly taxing working memory, these tasks did not require subjects to attend to some stimuli while ignoring other distracting stimuli, and did not require working memory manipulation. Both manipulation and updating are characteristics of many working memory tasks, particularly those that depend on and/or activate the basal ganglia. Indeed, previous work by the same group (McNab and Klingberg, 2008) showed that basal ganglia activity is predictive of the ability to filter out irrelevant information from working memory. Similarly, Dahlin et al. (2008) reported that training on tasks involving working memory updating leads to generalized enhanced performance in other working memory tasks, and that this transfer of learned knowledge is predicted by striatal activity. These results are consistent with computational models suggesting that the basal ganglia act as a gate to determine when and when not to update prefrontal working memory representations and are highly plastic as a function of reinforcement. Thus, future research is needed to test whether training on filtering, updating, or manipulation tasks leads to changes in striatal D2 receptor function.

References:

McNab, F. and Klingberg, T. (2008). Prefrontal cortex and basal ganglia control access to working memory. Nature Neuroscience, 11, 103-107. Abstract

Dahlin, E., Neely, A.S., Larsson, A., Bäckman, L. & Nyberg, L. (2008). Transfer of learning after updating training mediated by the striatum. Science, 320, 1510-1512. Abstract

Seamans, J.K. and Yang, C.R. (2004). The principal features and mechanisms of dopamine modulation in the prefrontal cortex. Progress in Neurobiology, 74, 1-57. Abstract

View all comments by Michael J. FrankComment by:  Terry Goldberg
Submitted 3 March 2009
Posted 3 March 2009

This is an important article that describes profound changes in the dopamine D1 receptor binding potential after working memory training in healthy male controls. The study rests on prior work that has demonstrated changes in brain volume with practice (e.g., Draganski and May, 2008), and dopamine can be released at the synapse in measurable amounts even during, dare I say, fairly trivial activities (e.g., playing a video game (Koepp et al., 1998). The present study demonstrated that binding potential of D1 receptors decreased in cortical regions (right ventrolateral frontal, right dorsolateral PFC, and posterior cortices) with training, and the magnitude of this decrease correlated with the improvement during training. Binding potential of D2 receptors in the striatum did not change. Unfortunately, D2 receptors in the cortex could not be measured with raclopride.

Two points come to mind. One is theoretical—how long would such a change remain, i.e., is it transient or is it fixed? This has implications for understanding practice-related phenomena and their transfer or consolidation. The second is technical. A number of studies have shown that practice can change not only the magnitude of a physiologic response, but also its location (see Kelly and Garavan for a review, 2005). Thus, the circuitry involved in learning a task may be different than the circuitry involved in implementing a task after it is well learned. By constraining areas to those activated in fMRI during initial working memory engagement, it is possible that other critical areas were not monitored for binding potential changes.

References:

Draganski B, May A. Training-induced structural changes in the adult human brain. Behav Brain Res . 2008 Sep 1 ; 192(1):137-42. Abstract

Kelly AM, Garavan H. Human functional neuroimaging of brain changes associated with practice. Cereb Cortex . 2005 Aug 1 ; 15(8):1089-102. Abstract

Koepp MJ, Gunn RN, Lawrence AD, Cunningham VJ, Dagher A, Jones T, Brooks DJ, Bench CJ, Grasby PM. Evidence for striatal dopamine release during a video game. Nature . 1998 May 21 ; 393(6682):266-8. Abstract

View all comments by Terry Goldberg

Comments on Related News


Related News: Dopamine D2 Receptors Accentuate the Positive ... and the Cognitive?

Comment by:  Barbara K. Lipska
Submitted 20 February 2006
Posted 20 February 2006

Kellendonk et al. have reported that transient and selective overexpression of dopamine D2 receptors in the mouse striatum during development has long-term effects on cognitive function mediated by the prefrontal cortex. This is an important study providing further elegant evidence that disturbed function of the subcortical dopamine system may affect dopamine functioning in the entire circuitry and have important adverse behavioral consequences. It is unclear, however, whether this mouse model provides us with new clues about the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. A hyperdopaminergic hypothesis of schizophrenia originated from pharmacological studies showing that dopamine D2 antagonists have antipsychotic efficacy and dopamine agonists, such as amphetamine or apomorphine, can induce psychosis (Randrup and Munkvad, 1974; Snyder, 1972). This hypothesis has been supported recently by clinical data from brain imaging studies with D2 receptor ligands showing higher presynaptic dopamine terminal activity in at least acutely psychotic patients when challenged with amphetamine or at baseline (Abi-Dargham et al., 2000; Hietala et al., 1994). Accordingly, amphetamine or apomorphine-induced hyperactivity and stereotypy in rodents have been postulated as psychosis-like behaviors and such pharmacological models have been widely used for screening antipsychotic drugs. Currently, all antipsychotic drugs on the market act by reducing D2 signals in brain, most by functioning as antagonists of D2 receptors. It is also clear, however, that although these drugs are beneficial, they do not cure the disease. It is also increasingly clear that although there is considerable evidence about the role of the dopaminergic system in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, genetic association and linkage between schizophrenia and the genes encoding dopamine receptors or transporter remain weak (Daniels et al., 1995; Kojima et al., 1999). Thus, dopamine abnormalities may not be at the core of pathophysiology. The exploration of genetic models beyond the dopamine system may perhaps prove more fruitful for capturing many aspects of this devastating illness.

References:

Abi-Dargham A, Rodenhiser J, Printz D, Zea-Ponce Y, Gil R, Kegeles LS, Weiss R, Cooper TB, Mann JJ, Van Heertum RL, Gorman JM, Laruelle M. Increased baseline occupancy of D2 receptors by dopamine in schizophrenia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jul 5;97(14):8104-9. Abstract

Daniels J, Williams J, Asherson P, McGuffin P, Owen M. No association between schizophrenia and polymorphisms within the genes for debrisoquine 4-hydroxylase (CYP2D6) and the dopamine transporter (DAT). Am J Med Genet. 1995 Feb 27;60(1):85-7. Abstract

Hietala J, Syvalahti E, Vuorio K, Nagren K, Lehikoinen P, Ruotsalainen U, Rakkolainen V, Lehtinen V, Wegelius U. Striatal D2 dopamine receptor characteristics in neuroleptic-naive schizophrenic patients studied with positron emission tomography. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994 Feb;51(2):116-23. Abstract

Kojima H, Ohmori O, Shinkai T, Terao T, Suzuki T, Abe K. Dopamine D1 receptor gene polymorphism and schizophrenia in Japan. Am J Med Genet. 1999 Apr 16;88(2):116-9. Abstract

Randrup A, Munkvad I. Pharmacology and physiology of stereotyped behavior. J Psychiatr Res. 1974;11:1-10. Review. No abstract available. Abstract

Snyder SH. Catecholamines in the brain as mediators of amphetamine psychosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972 Aug;27(2):169-79. Review. No abstract available. Abstract

View all comments by Barbara K. Lipska

Related News: Dopamine D2 Receptors Accentuate the Positive ... and the Cognitive?

Comment by:  Stephen J. Glatt
Submitted 26 February 2006
Posted 27 February 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

The development of animal models is a critical need in the realm of schizophrenia research. Current models relying on lesions or pharmacological manipulations may be relatively nonspecific, and thus, less than optimal for unraveling the underlying pathophysiology of the disorder. Models in which specific key candidate genes are up- or down-regulated may be better models because the effects can be more subtle and, as in this study, a very specific behavioral deficit may result. Ultimately, many genes, including DRD2, may be involved in discrete aspects of the illness, and when those gene deficiencies co-occur in certain individuals, schizophrenia may manifest. This study developed and validated a model, but the study itself is a model for how such studies should be done.

View all comments by Stephen J. Glatt

Related News: Dopamine D2 Receptors Accentuate the Positive ... and the Cognitive?

Comment by:  Daniel Weinberger, SRF Advisor
Submitted 27 February 2006
Posted 27 February 2006

The study by Kellendonk and colleagues from Eric Kandel’s lab at Columbia is a landmark piece of science in a number of respects. Transgenic overexpression of D2 receptors in the mouse striatum is a novel model of how a developmental perturbation in striatal dopaminergic signaling has long-term implications for processing of information through critical brain circuits involved in learning and memory. The model may also have implications for understanding abnormalities of the function of this circuit in schizophrenia. There is ample evidence from clinical and from postmortem studies that cortical-striatal circuits are involved as part of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. The work of Ann Marie Thierry and colleagues in Paris in the 1970s first drew attention to the fact that cortical function impacted on the striatal dopamine system (Thierry et al., 1973). A ground-breaking study of Pycock et al. (1980) showed that DA depletion in the prefrontal cortex affected DA parameters in the striatum, by increasing specifically DA turnover and D2 receptor expression. They were the first to report an inverse relationship between cortical and subcortical DA activity, a finding that has been reproduced in a broad variety of studies in rodents, nonhuman primates, and in humans (e.g., Jaskiw et al., 1990; 1991; Deutch, 1993; Saunders et al., 1998; Bertolino et al., 1999; 2000; Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2002; 2005). The mechanism of this effect is still uncertain, but likely involves the anatomical connectivity between prefrontal cortex and brainstem DA neurons, which involve a tonic inhibitory brake, such that normal prefrontal cortical function translates into tonic inhibition of DA neurons that project to the striatum (Carr and Sesack, 2000). Thus, prefrontal cortex is in a position to release that brake and increase DA-related reinforcement of environmental stimuli, when circumstances dictate an appropriately DA response, as might be expected during learning and memory. It is tempting to conclude from these various experiments over 30 years that the prefrontal cortex regulates the reward/reinforcement effects of DA neurons based on experiential context. The studies beginning with Thierry showed that when prefrontal function was disturbed, DA activity was no longer appropriately regulated. The study of Kellendonk et al. is consistent in terms of the circuitry involved with these earlier studies, but instead of creating an abnormality at the level of the prefrontal cortex and disrupting regulation of the DA reward system, they changed DA function directly in the striatum and their behavioral readout suggested that abnormal function of prefrontal cortex was a result. The “yin-yang” relationship again was reproduced, but now starting with the yang rather than the yin. The yang-based mechanism of the striatal effect on cortical function and cortical DA turnover is likely complex, including via striatal feedback to mesencephalic DA neurons that project to cortex and via striatal projections through thalamus back to prefrontal cortex.

The findings of Kellendonk et al. illustrate how critical prefronto-centric circuitry is, especially during development, for the elaboration of behaviors and biochemical phenomena related to schizophrenia. Their important finding that restoring normal DA function in the striatum did not restore prefrontal cognition indicates that it was no longer a matter of acute excess D2 activity in the striatum that accounted for the cognitive abnormalities. Presumably, in developmentally wiring the circuitry in and out of prefrontal cortex, abnormal information processing through the striatum (which feeds back to prefrontal cortex and presumably formats cortical information for frontally mediated action) changes the wiring diagram, producing more trait-like functional abnormalities. Trait-like changes in prefrontal function and molecular biology related to early developmental perturbations of other prefronto-centric neuronal systems implicated in schizophrenia, for example, temporal-limbic inputs to prefrontal cortex, also have been described (see Lipska and Weinberger, 2000, for review).

Finally, the study has important implications for neurobiologic models of phenomena associated with schizophrenia. PET studies of patients with schizophrenia suggest that, to the extent that striatal DA activity may be increased (Abi-Dargham et al., 1998), it is a state phenomenon, linked to active psychosis. On the other hand, evidence of abnormal cortical DA activity and function is more trait-like and persists between periods of florid psychosis. The persistent changes in cortical function independent of fluctuations in striatal D2 expression may provide some parallels to the clinical phenomena. It is surprising that these animals showed no deficits in activity or in prepulse inhibition of startle, both of which have been interpreted as measures of excess DA activity and as animal correlates of psychosis. The failure to observe these phenomena may be related to species differences—here mice as compared to earlier models with rats—or it may reflect relatively more selective overexpression of D2 receptors in the dorsal striatum. This latter finding is of interest as recent studies from Laurelle and colleagues at Columbia, using high-resolution PET imaging, have found that increased DA activity in patients with schizophrenia may also involve preferentially the dorsal striatum. The changes in DA measures in the cortex also bear interesting relationships to those found in patients with schizophrenia. The transgenic mice showed no change in markers of cortical DA innervation, which has been reported in schizophrenia (Akil et al., 1999), but they did show reduced cortical DA turnover, evidence of which also has been reported in schizophrenia (Weinberger et al., 1988). During D2 overexpression, D1 receptor sensitivity appeared to be increased, but during normalization of D2 overexpression, D1 receptors in prefrontal cortex appeared to be functionally subsensitive. These variations in cortical DA function may correspond to apparent reduced cortical DA activity as a trait characteristic and enhanced cortical DA activity as a correlate of acute psychosis (Winterer and Weinberger, 2004).

References:

Abi-Dargham A, Gil R, Krystal J, Baldwin RM, Seibyl JP, Bowers M, van Dyck CH, Charney DS, Innis RB, Laruelle M. Increased striatal dopamine transmission in schizophrenia: confirmation in a second cohort. Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Jun;155(6):761-7. Abstract

Akil M, Pierri JN, Whitehead RE, Edgar CL, Mohila C, Sampson AR, Lewis DA. Lamina-specific alterations in the dopamine innervation of the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenic subjects. Am J Psychiatry. 1999 Oct;156(10):1580-9. Abstract

Bertolino A, Breier A, Callicott JH, Adler C, Mattay VS, Shapiro M, Frank JA, Pickar D, Weinberger DR. The relationship between dorsolateral prefrontal neuronal N-acetylaspartate and evoked release of striatal dopamine in schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2000 Feb;22(2):125-32. Abstract

Bertolino A, Knable MB, Saunders RC, Callicott JH, Kolachana B, Mattay VS, Bachevalier J, Frank JA, Egan M, Weinberger DR. The relationship between dorsolateral prefrontal N-acetylaspartate measures and striatal dopamine activity in schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry. 1999 Mar 15;45(6):660-7. Abstract

Carr DB, Sesack SR. Projections from the rat prefrontal cortex to the ventral tegmental area: target specificity in the synaptic associations with mesoaccumbens and mesocortical neurons. J Neurosci. 2000 May 15;20(10):3864-73. Abstract

Deutch AY. Prefrontal cortical dopamine systems and the elaboration of functional corticostriatal circuits: implications for schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease. J Neural Transm Gen Sect. 1993;91(2-3):197-221. Review. Abstract

Jaskiw GE, Karoum F, Freed WJ, Phillips I, Kleinman JE, Weinberger DR. Effect of ibotenic acid lesions of the medial prefrontal cortex on amphetamine-induced locomotion and regional brain catecholamine concentrations in the rat. Brain Res. 1990 Nov 26;534(1-2):263-72. Abstract

Jaskiw GE, Weinberger DR, Crawley JN. Microinjection of apomorphine into the prefrontal cortex of the rat reduces dopamine metabolite concentrations in microdialysate from the caudate nucleus. Biol Psychiatry. 1991 Apr 1;29(7):703-6. No abstract available. Abstract

Lipska BK, Weinberger DR. To model a psychiatric disorder in animals: schizophrenia as a reality test. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2000 Sep;23(3):223-39. Review. Abstract

Meyer-Lindenberg A, Miletich RS, Kohn PD, Esposito G, Carson RE, Quarantelli M, Weinberger DR, Berman KF. Reduced prefrontal activity predicts exaggerated striatal dopaminergic function in schizophrenia. Nat Neurosci. 2002 Mar;5(3):267-71. Abstract

Meyer-Lindenberg A, Kohn PD, Kolachana B, Kippenhan S, McInerney-Leo A, Nussbaum R, Weinberger DR, Berman KF. Midbrain dopamine and prefrontal function in humans: interaction and modulation by COMT genotype. Nat Neurosci. 2005 May;8(5):594-6. Epub 2005 Apr 10. Abstract

Pycock CJ, Kerwin RW, Carter CJ. Effect of lesion of cortical dopamine terminals on subcortical dopamine receptors in rats. Nature. 1980 Jul 3;286(5768):74-6. No abstract available. Abstract

Saunders RC, Kolachana BS, Bachevalier J, Weinberger DR. Neonatal lesions of the medial temporal lobe disrupt prefrontal cortical regulation of striatal dopamine. Nature. 1998 May 14;393(6681):169-71. Abstract

Thierry AM, Blanc G, Sobel A, Stinus L, Golwinski J. Dopaminergic terminals in the rat cortex. Science. 1973 Nov 2;182(4111):499-501. No abstract available. Abstract

Weinberger DR, Berman KF, Illowsky BP. Physiological dysfunction of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia. III. A new cohort and evidence for a monoaminergic mechanism. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988 Jul;45(7):609-15. Abstract

Winterer G, Weinberger DR. Genes, dopamine and cortical signal-to-noise ratio in schizophrenia. Trends Neurosci. 2004 Nov;27(11):683-90. Review. Abstract

View all comments by Daniel Weinberger

Related News: Dopamine D2 Receptors Accentuate the Positive ... and the Cognitive?

Comment by:  Ricardo Ramirez
Submitted 28 February 2006
Posted 28 February 2006

I read the paper by Simpson et al. from Kandel's group with much interest. It seems that the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia has many lives and appears and reappears in many forms. This latest reincarnation combines hyperdopaminergia with the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of the disorder. My initial enthusiasm, however, waned upon closer reading of the paper.

It seems that the various conclusions reached are not wholly supported by the results. The prefrontal cognitive deficits of the D2 mice seem to be extremely subtle. It is difficult to infer specific impairments of working memory performance solely from acquisition effects. The D2 mice require more trials to reach criteria, but how do the mice perform once these criteria are met? To be sure, schizophrenia patients present with learning impairments, but their working memory deficits are persistent and ever present. It is interesting that high-order “executive functions” as measured by attentional set-shifting (e.g., intra- and extra-dimensional shifts) are spared in these mice, given that these depend on the rodent medial frontal cortex and are modulated by dopamine as well (Birrell and Brown, 2000; Tunbridge et al., 2004). Thus, contrary to what has been reported, these mice show normal behavioral flexibility. We are thus left with mice whose prefrontal function, at least behaviorally, is relatively intact.

A more pressing issue is the controls that were used for the experiments. The authors did not compare D2 mice (carrying both transgenes) with mice carrying the same two transgenes but who did not at any time express the D2 receptor. Instead the authors compared the D2R expressing mice with their littermates who carried no transgene or either the CamKII or D2 transgenes alone. They state that these groups showed no differences, but their control groups were of nine mice, so there is a potential lack of power to detect any differences between these groups. It will be of interest to know whether any of the other striatal D2 overexpressing lines that were created show similar phenotypes. Lacking this information, we cannot be sure that the subtle effect on behavior is not due to the disruption of another gene by the random insertion of the D2 transgene.

This paper is a natural extension of many years of work showing the balance between cortical and subcortical dopamine systems (Grace, 1991). A brief transient overexpression of striatal D2Rs during development does seem to affect DA function long into adulthood. This mouse model also reflects the long-used strategy of probing those systems thought to underlie the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. These models are of great benefit, but whether they shed any light on the cause or etiology of the disorder is an open question. One would hope that with these now sophisticated genetic tools and the identification of several reliable susceptibility genes (NRG1, DTNBP1, DISC1), more etiologically relevant mouse models can be created.

References:
Birrell JM and Brown VJ. Medial frontal cortex mediates perceptual attentional set shifting in the rat. J Neurosci. 2000 Jun 1;20(11):4320-4. Abstract Grace AA. Phasic versus tonic dopamine release and the modulation of dopamine system responsivity: a hypothesis for the etiology of schizophrenia. Neuroscience. 1991;41(1):1-24. Abstract Tunbridge EM, Bannerman DM, Sharp T, Harrison PJ. Catechol-o-methyltransferase inhibition improves set-shifting performance and elevates stimulated dopamine release in the rat prefrontal cortex. J Neurosci. 2004 Jun 9;24(23):5331-5. Abstract

View all comments by Ricardo Ramirez

Related News: Dopamine D2 Receptors Accentuate the Positive ... and the Cognitive?

Comment by:  Tomiki SumiyoshiPhilip Seeman (Disclosure)
Submitted 7 March 2006
Posted 8 March 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Comment by Tomiki Sumiyoshi and Philip Seeman
Kellendonk et al. report various behavioral and neurochemical findings from transgenic mice expressing an increased number of dopamine (DA)-D2 receptors in the striatum, labeled by 3H-spiperone. These mice showed deficits in some aspects of working memory, a cognitive domain associated with the prefrontal cortex function.

This study was prompted by the landmark hypothesis that DA supersensitivity in some of the subcortical brain regions, such as the striatum, constitutes a neurochemical basis for psychotic symptoms of schizophrenia (e.g., van Rossum, 1966; Seeman et al., 2005). Conventionally, dysregulation of DA-related behaviors, including enhanced locomotor activity and stereotypy, as well as disrupted prepulse inhibition, have been thought to reflect psychosis-related symptoms. However, the D2 receptor transgenic mice did not demonstrate alterations in any of these behavioral measures, although an in vitro assay indicated reduced DA-induced adenylate cyclase activity in these animals. To follow the behavioral changes after challenging the mice with amphetamine or other DA-agonists would have conveyed more information on whether the up-regulated D2 receptors are actually functional.

It is also crucial to determine if there is a shift of D2 receptors to the high-affinity state, or functional state (D2High) (Seeman et al., 2005), in this animal model of schizophrenia. It is argued that D2High sites may be more relevant to psychotic symptoms than the total density of D2 receptors measured by conventional binding methods, such as that used by Kellendonk et al. with 3H-spiperone as a ligand (Seeman et al., 2005; Sumiyoshi et al., 2005). In fact, increased proportions of D2High have been reported in various animal models of psychosis, including those based on the neurodevelopmental hypothesis of schizophrenia (Seeman et al., 2005; Sumiyoshi et al., 2005).

Kellendonk et al. found that the extra D2 receptors in the striatum were associated with the cognitive disturbances. Since it has been found that overexpression of the catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT) gene also impairs cognitive function (Chen et al., 2005), further research is needed to determine if the cognitive deficits result from overexpression of these specific genes and not just any gene.

References:

van Rossum JM. The significance of dopamine-receptor blockade for the mechanism of action of neuroleptic drugs. Arch Int Pharmacodyn Ther. 1966 Apr;160(2):492-4. No abstract available. Abstract

Seeman P, Weinshenker D, Quirion R, Srivastava LK, Bhardwaj SK, Grandy DK, Premont RT, Sotnikova TD, Boksa P, El-Ghundi M, O'dowd BF, George SR, Perreault ML, Mannisto PT, Robinson S, Palmiter RD, Tallerico T. Dopamine supersensitivity correlates with D2High states, implying many paths to psychosis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Mar 1;102(9):3513-8. Epub 2005 Feb 16. Abstract

Sumiyoshi T, Seeman P, Uehara T, Itoh H, Tsunoda M, Kurachi M. Increased proportion of high-affinity dopamine D2 receptors in rats with excitotoxic damage of the entorhinal cortex, an animal model of schizophrenia. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2005 Oct 31;140(1-2):116-9. Epub 2005 Jul 28. Abstract

Chen J, Lipska BK, Weinberger DR. New genetic mouse models of schizophrenia: Mimicking cognitive dysfunction by altering susceptibility gene expression. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2005; 30 (Suppl 1):S12-13.

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Related News: Dopamine D2 Receptors Accentuate the Positive ... and the Cognitive?

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 7 March 2006
Posted 8 March 2006
  I recommend the Primary Papers

I agree with Dr Weinberger's comments about the work of Kellendonk et al. In this sense, the cortical, frontal-striatal connections are well-known circuits involved in the development of schizophrenia.

Dr. Weinberger, in 1992, reported studies from limbic-prefrontal circuits, connections involved in schizophrenia pathophysiology (Weinberger et al., 1992). This work used an inverse experimental methodology (of corroborating the existing relationship between frontal cortex and the striatum) from the methodology commonly used (search for the line-activation in frontal cortex, then see the results in the striatum).

The most outstanding part of the study is one dedicated to the developmental approach. Thus, in the article, it was clear that restoring the normal DA function in the striatum did not restore cognitive functioning. As this article demonstrates, developmental approaches are excellent for the understanding of the neurobiology of schizophrenia.

References:

Weinberger DR, Berman KF, Suddath R, Torrey EF. Evidence of dysfunction of a prefrontal-limbic network in schizophrenia: a magnetic resonance imaging and regional cerebral blood flow study of discordant monozygotic twins. Am J Psychiatry. 1992 Jul;149(7):890-7. Abstract

View all comments by Patricia Estani

Related News: The New "Inverted U”—Cellular Basis for Dopamine Response Pinpointed

Comment by:  Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg
Submitted 8 February 2007
Posted 8 February 2007

This fascinating paper contributes to our mechanistic understanding of a fundamental nonlinearity governing the response of prefrontal neurons during working memory to dopaminergic stimulation: the “inverted U” response curve (Goldman-Rakic et al., 2000), which proposes that an optimum range of dopaminergic stimulation exists, and that either too little or too much dopamine impairs tuning, or the relationship between task-relevant (“signal”) and task-irrelevant (“noise”) firing of these neurons. On the level of behavior, this is predicted to result in impaired working memory performance outside the optimum middle range, and this has been confirmed in a variety of species. This is a topic of high relevance for schizophrenia where prefrontal dysfunction and related cognitive deficits, and dopaminergic dysregulation, have long been in the center of research interest (Weinberger et al., 2001), and may be linked (Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2002). In particular, evidence for abnormally decreased dopamine levels in prefrontal cortex would predict that patients with schizophrenia are positioned to the left of the optimum. This line of thought has recently received impetus from genetic studies on COMT, the major enzyme catabolizing dopamine in prefrontal cortex (Tunbridge et al., 2004). Neuroimaging studies have shown that genetic variants with high COMT activity are positioned to the left, those with lower activity nearer the optimum of the inverted U curve, and that this position predicts nonlinear response to amphetamine stimulation (Mattay et al., 2003), as well as interactions between dopamine synthesis and prefrontal response (Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2005). Variants with sub- (Egan et al., 2001; Nicodemus et al., 2007) or superoptimal (Gothelf et al., 2005) stimulation were associated with schizophrenia risk. Task-related and task-unrelated prefrontal function reacted in opposite ways to genetic variation in dopamine synthesis, suggesting a tuning mechanism (Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2005). Recently, interacting genetic variants in COMT have also been found to affect prefrontal cortex function in an inverted U fashion (Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2006).

A seminal contribution to the cellular mechanisms of the inverted U curve is the paper by Williams (one of the authors of the current study) and Goldman-Rakic in Nature 1995 (Williams and Goldman-Rakic, 1995). In this work, dopamine D1 receptor antagonists were used and shown to increase prefrontal cell activity in low levels, whereas high levels inhibited firing. This implicated a mechanism related to D1 receptors and suggested that the neurons studied were to the right of the optimum on the inverted U curve, that is, their dopamine stimulation was excessive. The present study, from Amy Arnsten’s lab at Yale, further defines the cellular mechanisms underlying the inverted U curve in recordings from PFC neurons of awake behaving monkeys exposed to various levels of stimulation by a dopamine 1 receptor agonist. A spatial working memory paradigm was used, enabling the determination of the degree to which the neurons were tuned by comparing the firing rate to stimuli in the preferred spatial stimulus direction (“signal”) to the firing rate to nonpreferred stimuli (“noise”). The authors recorded both from neurons that were highly tuned (supposedly receiving optimum stimulation) and neurons that were less tuned. As would be predicted from the model, highly tuned neurons did not improve, or worsened, during stimulation, while weakly tuned neurons became more focused in their activity profile. It is not quite clear to me why the previous paper (Williams and Goldman-Rakic, 1995) found neurons that were predominantly to the right of the optimum, while this work identified neurons using a similar paradigm that were either to the left or near the optimum. Perhaps it is because Williams and Goldman-Rakic (Williams and Goldman-Rakic, 1995) screened neurons for a response to the D1 antagonist first. In both studies, extracellular dopamine was not actually measured, meaning that the state of basal stimulation can only be inferred indirectly from the response to the iontophoresed agonist or antagonist. Importantly, the effect of D1 stimulation was always suppressive; effects on tuning were due to the fact that the reduction in response to the signal and the noise were different in extent, such that for weakly tuned neurons and low levels of D1 stimulation, the noise firing was more suppressed than that of the signal, resulting in increased signal to noise. In a second set of pharmacological experiments, which included validation in a rat working memory model, the authors show that these effects are cAMP, but not PKC-dependent, suggesting a preferential cellular mechanism through Gs-proteins, which might be useful for exploration of more specific drug targets.

This work has interesting implications for our understanding of prefrontal function in schizophrenia. Since dopamine stimulation was found to be almost exclusively suppressive, cortical dopamine depletion in schizophrenia would be predicted to lead to relatively increased, but inefficient (untuned) cortical cognitive response, as has indeed been observed (Callicott et al., 2000). However, it is an open question precisely how cortical physiology assessed by imaging relates to these cellular events. The data by Arnsten suggest that each patch of prefrontal cortex will contain a population of neurons at various states of tuning that will respond differently to drug-induced or cognitively related changes in extracellular dopamine, with some improving, some decreasing their tuning. Depending on whether imaging signals and tasks are more sensitive to overall firing rate, or to specific signal-to-noise properties, the resulting blood flow change might be quite different. Perhaps this contributes to some of the puzzling discrepancies between hypo- and hyperactivation both being observed in comparable tasks and regions of prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia.

References:

1. Goldman-Rakic PS, Muly EC 3rd, Williams GV. D(1) receptors in prefrontal cells and circuits. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. 2000 Mar;31(2-3):295-301. Review. No abstract available. Abstract

2. Weinberger DR, Egan MF, Bertolino A, Callicott JH, Mattay VS, Lipska BK, Berman KF, Goldberg TE. Prefrontal neurons and the genetics of schizophrenia. Biol Psychiatry. 2001 Dec 1;50(11):825-44. Review. Abstract

3. Meyer-Lindenberg A, Miletich RS, Kohn PD, Esposito G, Carson RE, Quarantelli M, Weinberger DR, Berman KF. Reduced prefrontal activity predicts exaggerated striatal dopaminergic function in schizophrenia. Nat Neurosci. 2002 Mar;5(3):267-71. Abstract

4. Tunbridge EM, Bannerman DM, Sharp T, Harrison PJ. Catechol-o-methyltransferase inhibition improves set-shifting performance and elevates stimulated dopamine release in the rat prefrontal cortex. J Neurosci. 2004 Jun 9;24(23):5331-5. Abstract

5. Mattay VS, Goldberg TE, Fera F, Hariri AR, Tessitore A, Egan MF, Kolachana B, Callicott JH, Weinberger DR. Catechol O-methyltransferase val158-met genotype and individual variation in the brain response to amphetamine. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 May 13;100(10):6186-91. Epub 2003 Apr 25. Abstract

6. Meyer-Lindenberg A, Kohn PD, Kolachana B, Kippenhan S, McInerney-Leo A, Nussbaum R, Weinberger DR, Berman KF. Midbrain dopamine and prefrontal function in humans: interaction and modulation by COMT genotype. Nat Neurosci. 2005 May;8(5):594-6. Epub 2005 Apr 10. Abstract

7. Egan MF, Goldberg TE, Kolachana BS, Callicott JH, Mazzanti CM, Straub RE, Goldman D, Weinberger DR. Effect of COMT Val108/158 Met genotype on frontal lobe function and risk for schizophrenia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Jun 5;98(12):6917-22. Epub 2001 May 29. Abstract

8. Nicodemus KK, Kolachana BS, Vakkalanka R, Straub RE, Giegling I, Egan MF, Rujescu D, Weinberger DR. Evidence for statistical epistasis between catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) and polymorphisms in RGS4, G72 (DAOA), GRM3, and DISC1: influence on risk of schizophrenia. Hum Genet. 2007 Feb;120(6):889-906. Epub 2006 Sep 28. Abstract

9. Gothelf D, Eliez S, Thompson T, Hinard C, Penniman L, Feinstein C, Kwon H, Jin S, Jo B, Antonarakis SE, Morris MA, Reiss AL. COMT genotype predicts longitudinal cognitive decline and psychosis in 22q11.2 deletion syndrome. Nat Neurosci. 2005 Nov;8(11):1500-2. Epub 2005 Oct 23. Abstract

10. Meyer-Lindenberg A, Nichols T, Callicott JH, Ding J, Kolachana B, Buckholtz J, Mattay VS, Egan M, Weinberger DR. Impact of complex genetic variation in COMT on human brain function. Mol Psychiatry. 2006 Sep;11(9):867-77, 797. Epub 2006 Jun 20. Abstract

11. Williams GV, Goldman-Rakic PS. Modulation of memory fields by dopamine D1 receptors in prefrontal cortex. Nature. 1995 Aug 17;376(6541):572-5. Abstract

12. Callicott JH, Bertolino A, Mattay VS, Langheim FJ, Duyn J, Coppola R, Goldberg TE, Weinberger DR. Physiological dysfunction of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia revisited. Cereb Cortex. 2000 Nov;10(11):1078-92. Abstract

View all comments by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg

Related News: The New "Inverted U”—Cellular Basis for Dopamine Response Pinpointed

Comment by:  Terry Goldberg
Submitted 6 April 2007
Posted 6 April 2007

In this landmark study, Arnsten and colleagues used a full dopamine agonist in awake behaving monkeys to make key points about the inverted U response at the cellular level and how this maps to the behavioral level. There were a number of surprises. The first was that stimulation of the D1 receptor had consistently suppressive effects on neuronal firing during delays in a working memory task. The second was that when responses were optimized, suppressive effects differentially affected non-preferred directional neurons, rather than preferred direction neurons. Thus, it appeared that noise was reduced rather than signal amplified. Too much D1 stimulation resulted in suppression of both classes of neurons.

The implications of this work are important because it suggests that there is a neurobiological algorithm at work that can reliably produce this unexpected physiological pattern (perhaps as the authors suggest on the basis of baseline activity). It remains to be elucidated whether the D1 receptor effects are mediated by glutamatergic neurons or GABA interneurons, or both. There is another layer of complexity to the story. As Arnsten and colleagues note, possible excitatory influences of D1 stimulation may not have been observed because endogenous dopamine had already triggered this process. It is unclear if D2 receptors in the cortex have a role in shaping or terminating this activity.

Last, it is tempting to speculate about the implications of these findings for other types of tasks that engage prefrontal cortex in humans. What does tuning mean in the context of tasks like the N Back which demands updating, the ID/ED test from the CANTAB, which involves suppression of salient distractors at early set shifting stages, or a task which demands heavy doses of cognitive control like the flanker task, all of which have been shown to be sensitive to manipulations of the dopamine system (Goldberg et al., 2003; Jazbec et al., 2007; Diaz-Asper et al., in press; Blasi et al., 2005)?

View all comments by Terry Goldberg

Related News: Biology of Reinforcement—Dopamine Linked to Three Separate Reward Paths

Comment by:  Patricia Estani
Submitted 16 November 2007
Posted 16 November 2007
  I recommend the Primary Papers

Related News: Training Study Questions Fixed Nature of Fluid Intelligence

Comment by:  Andrei Szoke
Submitted 7 May 2008
Posted 7 May 2008

The authors suggest that they have found what could be considered the Holy Grail of cognitive research—a means to enhance intelligence. There is some hope from the article, as results on a task considered to measure fluid intelligence are improved, even if the subjects are not trained on this specific task. The “dual n-back” training task, although not pure working memory (as the authors acknowledge), is a very interesting experimental paradigm. Unfortunately, the authors fail to convince us of its usefulness in enhancing “fluid intelligence.” When a drug is tested, any effect, to be convincingly supported, must be demonstrated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo (or standard treatment)-controlled trial. The same should be true for any (pharmacological or otherwise) means aimed at enhancing cognition.

As for the issue of whether this training will have the same effects in schizophrenic subjects as it had in these normal, motivated controls, that is an entirely different question that is not addressed in the article. I think that future studies have to address all those limitations (randomization of subjects, a similar amount of training with a different task in controls, a double-blind design) before any firm conclusions could be drawn.

View all comments by Andrei Szoke