Most antidepressants such as the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increase serotonin levels throughout the brain. However it is still unclear which specific circuits mediate the behavioral effects of these compounds. We have shown that mice lacking the serotonin 1A receptor (5-HTIA) specifically in the dentate gyrus do not respond to SSRIs in several animal models of anxiety and depression (Samuels et al., 2012, appended paper). In a separate set of experiments we have shown that neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus is required for some but not all behavioral effects of antidepressants (David et al., 2009). These two independent lines of evidence point to the dentate gyrus as playing an important role in the behavioral effects of antidepressants. These findings are surprising because the dentate gyrus (DG) ofthe hippocampus has been extensively studied for its role in learning and memory and specifically in encoding new information and in disambiguating similar informations, a process termed pattern separation. However the role of this part ofthe hippocampus in anxiety and depression-related behaviors is poorly understood. In the current proposal we propose to reconcile these two seemingly unrelated functions ofthe DG by testing the general hypothesis that the functions ofthe DG are distinct along its dorso-ventral axis with the dorsal part being involved in neutral pattern separation while the ventral part is involved in emotional pattern separation, a process that is often impaired in mood and anxiety disorders. These studies will paveithe way for novel strategies aimed at modulating the excitability of the ventral DG for the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders.
Over 20% of adult Americans are, at some point, diagnosed with either mood or anxiety disorders, with enormous personal, societal and financial costs. The most common treatments for these disorders are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). However, only 25-50% of patients achieve remission. Therefore, there is a considerable need for new therapies. This proposal will lay the groundwork for a totally novel treatment strateav for these disorders.
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