The research group created a virus capable of acting on specific adult brain regions, helping to elucidate the role of key neurons in the prefrontal cortex; they tested the technique on mice
Researchers used genetic engineering tools to create a virus that can enter specific neurons and insert into the prefrontal cortex a new genetic code that induces the production of modified proteins. In tests with mice, the alteration of these proteins was sufficient to modify brain activity, indicating a potential biomarker for the diagnosis of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
Sometimes referred to as the "executive brain", the prefrontal cortex is the region that governs higher-level cognitive functions and decision making. Studies of tissue from this brain region in patients with schizophrenia have detected alterations in two proteins: BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and trkB (tyrosine receptor kinase B).
The relationship between BDNF and trkB is important during brain development. When these proteins bind to each other, they trigger a cascade of intracellular signals that are essential to neuronal maturation and growth. Imbalances in this kind of signaling …