Thalamus-Targeted Drugs Could Treat Schizophrenia

 Thalamus plays a larger role in memory than previously thought.

Published Online: May 15,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits

 

Three groups of collaborating researchers discovered that the thalamus, an egg-shaped structure in the brain, is involved with thinking circuitry. Previously, the structure was thought to only relay information, but has been observed to help distinguish categories and keep thoughts in the mind, according to new study published by Nature and Nature Neuroscience.

The authors manipulated neurons in the thalamus to control an animal’s ability to remember how to receive a reward. These findings could lead to a targeted treatment to reduce cognitive problems associated with various psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

“If the brain works like an orchestra, our results suggest the thalamus may be its conductor,” said researcher Michael Halassa, MD, PhD. “It helps ensembles play in-sync by boosting their functional connectivity.”

Previous studies have suggested that the thalamus had a relay-like role in the brain due to its connections to portions of the brain that process sensory input. However, the authors of the new study state that the thalamus has connections to many other parts of the brain.

Specifically, the authors investigated the circuit that connects the mediodorsal thalamus with the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which controls thinking and decision making. Brain imaging has suggested that patients with schizophrenia often have decreased connectivity in this circuit.

The authors discovered that neurons in the thalamus and PFC communicated back and forth in mice, according to the study. Then, they monitored neural activity in mice performing an activity requiring working memory – the mice were tasked to follow cues to determine which door had a reward behind it.

Interestingly, when the neuronal activity in the thalamus was suppressed, mice were unable to choose the correct door, but when neuronal activity was stimulated, the mice had improved performance, according to the study.

These findings confirm previous notions about the role for the thalamus and also demonstrated a specific role in maintaining information in working memory.

The authors noted that sets of PFC neurons held memory regarding information about the correct door choice. The thalamus did not relay this information, but increased functional connectivity of PFC neurons, which was deemed vital for sustaining memory of the category, according to the study.

“Our study may have uncovered the key circuit elements underlying how the brain represents categories,” Dr Halassa said.

The second group of investigators found similar results when testing mice’s ability to find a reward in a maze. The authors also discovered the differentiated roles for subgroups of PFC neurons and how they communicate with the hippocampus.

They found that thalamus input to the PFC maintained working memory by stabilizing activity during a delay before the mice received the reward. Signals from the PFC to the thalamus sustained memory retrieval and action, according to the study.

These findings confirm that input from the hippocampus was required to encode the reward location in PFC neurons, according to the study.

“Strikingly, we found 2 separate populations of neurons in the PFC. One encoded for spatial location and required hippocampal input; the other was active during memory maintenance and required thalamic input,” said researcher Joshua Gordon, MD. “Our findings should have translational relevance, particularly to schizophrenia. Further study of how this circuit might go awry and cause working memory deficits holds promise for improved diagnosis and more targeted therapeutic approaches.”

The third group of investigators observed that the thalamus plays a role in short-term memory as well. The authors found that the thalamus cooperates with the cortex through bi-directional interactions, according to the study.

Before the mice received the reward, they needed to remember where to move after a delay. The authors found that the thalamus was communicating with the motor cortex when the mice were planning to move.

There was electrical activity in both structures during this time, which indicates that they work together to sustain information predicting the movement of the mice. An additional analysis revealed that the activity of the cortex and thalamus was dependent on one another, according to the study.

“Our results show that cortex circuits alone can’t sustain the neural activity required to prepare for movement,” said researcher Charles Gerfen, PhD. “It also requires reciprocal participation across multiple brain areas, including the thalamus as a critical hub in the circuit.”

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Linden Lodge Helps to Shatter the Silence at Local Rally

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Shattering the Silence Posted by Linden Lodge Foundation, Inc. on Saturday, May 20, 2017 Today Linden Lodge Foundation participated in a gathering, at Linden Lodge, to draw attention to mental illness issues, how they are addressed (or not!) in our … Continue reading

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Insane Consequences: D J Jaffe’s Attempt To Turn A Spotlight On The Seriously Mentally Ill

(5-1-17) Given the ongoing dispute about who will be the first Assistant Secretary for mental health and substance abuse, it seems a fitting time to discuss D.J. Jaffe’s new book, Insane Consequences: How the Mental Health Industry Fails The Mentally Ill.

For the past thirty years, Jaffe has been deeply involved in advocating for better care for the seriously mentally ill and his book provides a roadmap for what he is convinced needs to be done to rescue and reform our current system.

Jaffe became an advocate because of a family member. In his case, it was his wife’s younger sister, Lynn. What happened to Jaffe, his wife, Rose, and to Lynn has become an all too common story.

She started becoming paranoid, convinced that conversations taking place across the street involved plots to kill her…We took her to the emergency room. She was admitted, diagnosed, medicated, and provided rehabilitative therapy. But to “protect her privacy,” her doctor wouldn’t tell us her diagnosis, what medication she’d given Lynn, or what would happen when her hospitalization ended. Lynn returned home to us and stopped taking the antipsychotic medications we didn’t even know she’d been prescribed…”

Thus, Jaffe was thrust into our baffling mental health care system which he quickly found to be both frustrating and lacking. Determined to help change it, he began by knocking on the door of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, raising money for its New York City chapter and eventually joining its board. From there, he moved to the Treatment Advocacy Center where he became a strong advocate for Assisted Outpatient Treatment and a dedicated admirer of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, one of TAC’s founders. More recently, he has launched his own organization, Mental Illness Policy. Org, which he describes as “a nonpartisan think tank that creates detailed policy analyses for legislators, the media and advocates.” Continue reading

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Cost of not caring: Stigma set in stone

Excellent USA Today article on attitudes about mental health and failure to provide equal treatment with physical ailments in this country. Stigma = discrimination. Absolutely.

Liz Szabo of USA Today continues with her excellent series of articles profiling America’s failing mental health system. This is a worthy read!

  • Stigma against the mentally ill is so powerful that it’s been codified for 50 years into federal law, and few outside the mental health system even realize it.

    This systemic discrimination, embedded in Medicaid and Medicare laws, has accelerated the emptying of state psychiatric hospitals, leaving many of the sickest and most vulnerable patients with nowhere to turn.

    Advocates and experts who spoke with USA TODAY describe a system in shambles, starved of funding while neglecting millions of people across the country each year.

    The failure to provide treatment and supportive services to people with mental illness – both in the community and in hospitals – has overburdened emergency rooms, crowded state and local jails and left untreated patients to fend for themselves on city streets, says Patrick Kennedy, a former congressman from Rhode Island who has fought to provide better care for the mentally ill.

    The USA routinely fails to provide the most basic services for people with mental illness — something the country would never tolerate for patients with cancer or other physical disorders, Kennedy says.

– See more at: http://www.cmhnetwork.org/news/cost-of-not-caring-stigma-set-in-stone#sthash.PEacUE5q.dpuf

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Moore County Leadership Institute Envisions a Wellness Garden at Linden Lodge

 

Moore County Leadership Institute

MCLI is a yearlong program offered by the Moore County Chamber of Commerce. Individuals accepted into the program spend one day a month learning about a different aspect of Moore County — touching on education, government, agriculture, tourism, business, and health care. Each individual also works within a team on a project to help a nonprofit organization or fill an unmet need in the community. Developed in 1989, MCLI has had more than 500 graduates to date.

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Stamp Out Stigma 2017 Awareness Calendar

This year is filled with many speical dates devoted to raising awareness about important mental health, substance use disorder, and overall health issues. To make it easier for you here is an awareness calendar to highlight these important days, weeks, and months. Be sure to mark the dates on your calendar so you can join with Linden Lodge to help reduce the stigma and create a positive impact!

Stamp Out Stigma 2017 Awareness Calendar
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Linden Lodge Chicks Produce

Dean making breakfast

At last success! Dean is preparing breakfast with the first of the fresh eggs laid by our very own Linden Lodge chickens. We can’t wait for them all to start laying so we have all the fresh eggs we need. All our residents are REALLY looking forward to  their turn at collecting them each day!

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Linden Lodge Residents Care for Their Chickens

Resized_20160812_172212Linden Lodge residents each care for one chicken that they “adopted” and clean the chicken coop daily as a way to promote their personal responsibility in addition to having the fun of gathering our fresh eggs each day.  No one can say our residents are not a creative bunch as the names of our chickens are Zeblow, Roseanna, Popcorn, Georgie Mae, Ruby, Crystal and Cuckoo. Life continues to be good at Linden Lodge!!

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Congratulations, Linden Lodge Foundation!

The Moore County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the NC Community Foundation, has awarded Linden Lodge Foundation, Inc. a grant in the amount of $2,500.00 from their John W. Roffe & Marjorie A. Roffe Endowment for Moore County.

Marianne speaks to NCCF

 

Marianne Kernan, Chairman of the Linden Lodge Foundation, speaks before the Moore County affiliate of the NC Community Foundation as she gratefully accepts their generous grant to help offset the cost of the kitchen renovation at Linden Lodge

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Linden Lodge Mascot Celebrates in Pinehurst

Marianne, Emily and Maggie 7-4-2016

Marianne and Emily along with Miss Maggie, the Linden Lodge “super pup in residence”, participated in the Pinehurst 4th of July Pet Parade. They all donned their red, white, and blue – don’t Emily and Miss Maggie look fabulous!

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