Deficits in social memory, which is seen in some mental illnesses including schizophrenia, may be the result of a decrease in a specific type of brain cells known as inhibitory neurons.
The finding, made by researchers at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), New York, and the Université Paris Descartes, France, opens the door to better understanding of the mechanisms that lead to social withdrawal, reduced motivation, and decreased emotional capacity, all common features seen in schizophrenia patients.
Vivien Chevaleyre, PhD, group leader in neuroscience at the Université Paris Descartes, and colleagues a series of electrophysiological and behavioral experiments on a mouse model of schizophrenia developed at CUMC.
In examining the rodents’ brains, the researchers discovered a significant decrease in inhibitory CA2 neurons, as 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 the controls. This could mean that changes to CA2 may result, at least partially, social behavioral changes that occur in people with schizophrenia.
Chevaleyre V, 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):163-176.