Zoological Research ›› 2015, Vol. 36 ›› Issue (6): 314-318.doi: 10.13918/j.issn.ZoolRes.2015.6.314

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Physiological approaches to understanding molecular actions on dorsolateral prefrontal cortical neurons underlying higher cognitive processing

Min WANG, Amy F.T. ARNSTEN*   

  1. Department of Neurobiology, School of Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, CT, 06510, USA
  • Received:2015-08-18 Online:2015-11-18 Published:2015-11-18


:Revealing how molecular mechanisms influence higher brain circuits in primates will be essential for understanding how genetic insults lead to increased risk of cognitive disorders. Traditionally, modulatory influences on higher cortical circuits have been examined using lesion techniques, where a brain region is depleted of a particular transmitter to determine how its loss impacts cognitive function. For example, depletion of catecholamines or acetylcholine from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex produces striking deficits in working memory abilities. More directed techniques have utilized direct infusions of drug into a specific cortical site to try to circumvent compensatory changes that are common following transmitter depletion. The effects of drug on neuronal firing patterns are often studied using iontophoresis, where a minute amount of drug is moved into the brain using a tiny electrical current, thus minimizing the fluid flow that generally disrupts neuronal recordings. All of these approaches can be compared to systemic drug administration, which remains a key arena for the development of effective therapeutics for human cognitive disorders. Most recently, viral techniques are being developed to be able to manipulate proteins for which there is no developed pharmacology, and to allow optogenetic manipulations in primate cortex. As the association cortices greatly expand in brain evolution, research in nonhuman primates is particularly important for understanding the modulatory regulation of our highest order cognitive operations.

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