A research study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Clinical Neuroscience describes a protein that may help psychiatrists separate the competing brain waves of patients with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders. The team was led by Yiannis Barchat a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of principal investigator Eva Kaatsopis at the University of Toronto.

We were able to identify a molecule that is necessary for normal brain wave activity in people with schizophrenia and is involved in the brain circuits involved in forming spoken words and sensory input says Barchat.

This protein is involved in the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters which are essential for normal brain function.

The team discovered a chemical modification to this protein which was found to be involved in the communications between the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for managing the signs and symptoms of normal cognition and the hippocampus which is involved in learning and memory.

Using mice models we identified a phosphorylation or deletion or modification in this protein that is necessary for normal communication between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus which is important for learning and memory says Kaatsopisisis professor at the University of Toronto.

If we can differentiate the two hemispheres we could feasibly use this insight to help treat schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders involving disturbances in these two brain regions to help us to understand and potentially to improve patients outcomes.

The researchers are currently looking at mechanisms involved in a process known as synoptic transmission which is known to be impaired in several psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and major depression. Synoptic transmission is a major part of normal brain wiring and has been thought to be a major contributor to symptoms like attention-deficithyperactivity disorder such as schizophrenia. A primary function of the prefrontal cortex is to manage cognitive functions that require higher cognitive processing power. People with schizophrenia or other psychiatric disorders often have difficulty learning or enhancing skills required for daily functioning itself leading to a wide spectrum of negative outcomes including suicidality mood disorders and anxiety disorders.

Understanding the role of other brain areas in psychiatric disorders is combined with our investigation of the non-synoptic transmission of this protein says Barchat.

We found that the non-synoptic transmission was strikingly altered in schizophrenia and in other psychiatric disorders involving impairments in cognitive control and achievements of academic and psychiatric productivity.

These results suggest that there may be neuropsychiatric beneficial effects induced by deplete non-synoptic pathways involved in normal brain function concludes Aeisogiannakis senior author on the paper.

Karthik Kodakskaitis a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of principal investigator Takahisa Oisawa at the University of Tokyo was also a co-first author.