NYC Healthcare News



Unexpected discovery holds promise for PTSD, other anxiety disorders

January 27, 2016

Neuronal gap junctions form where inhibitory neurons touch one another. They are like an opening between nerve cells, a gap in the membranes separating the cells from one another; they let the electrical activity in one neuron affect the neuron it touches.

"Our research shows a way that neurons can coordinate their activity, and this coordination is critical for memory formation," Fanselow said. "Perhaps if we had a way of enhancing gap junction function, we may improve memory formation by facilitating gap junctions when memory is impaired by diseases such as Alzheimer's. However, we have not shown this yet."

"I was completely surprised by this discovery," he said. "I really thought we were taking a long shot and was surprised that gap junctions were not only playing a role but that their importance was so great.

"The formation of fear memories is the major cause of anxiety disorders. These disorders are very common and can be very debilitating. Gap junctions appear to be key in coordinating the activity of the network of neurons that produce fear memories, specifically, and probably other memories, generally, as well."

The lead author on the Science paper is Stephanie Bissiere, an assistant researcher in Fanselow's laboratory, who last week was selected as a recipient of a Young Investigator Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

Source: University of California - Los Angeles