"Our main findings were that elevating cell activity in the dorsal dentate gyrus increased the animals' desire to explore their environment. But this also disrupted their ability to learn. Elevating activity in the ventral dentate gyrus lowered their anxiety, but had no effect on learning," said Dr. Kheirbek. The effects were completely reversible that is, when the stimulation was turned off, the animals returned to their previous anxiety levels.
"The therapeutic implication is that it may be possible to relieve anxiety in people with anxiety disorders by targeting the ventral dentate gyrus, perhaps with medications or deep-brain stimulation, without affecting learning," said Dr. Hen, who is also director of the Division of Integrative Neuroscience, The New York State Psychiatric Institute, and a member of The Kavli Institute for Brain Science. "Given the immediate behavioral impact of such manipulations, these strategies are likely to work faster than current treatments, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors."
According to Dr. Hen, such an intervention would probably work best in people with panic disorder or PTSD. "There is evidence that people with these anxiety disorders tend to have a problem with pattern separation the ability to distinguish between similar experiences," he said. "In other words, they overgeneralize, perceiving minor threats to be the same as major ones, leading to a heightened state of anxiety. Such patients could conceivably benefit from therapies that fine-tune hippocampal activity."
Dr. Hen and his team are currently exploring strategies aimed at modulating the activity of the ventral dentate gyrus by stimulating neurogenesis in the ventral dentate gyrus. "Indeed the dentate gyrus is one of the few areas i
|Contact: Elizabeth Streich|
Columbia University Medical Center