Feature Finding Title
Feature Finding FigureCognitive deficits in schizophrenia have been linked to disturbances in GABA neurons in the prefrontal cortex. Furthermore, cognitive deficits in schizophrenia appear well before the onset of psychosis and have been reported to be present during early childhood and even during the first year of life. Taken together, these data raise the following question: Does the disease process that produces abnormalities in prefrontal GABA neurons in schizophrenia begin prenatally and disrupt the ontogeny of cortical GABA neurons? Here, we address this question through a consideration of evidence that genetic and/or environmental insults that occur during gestation initiate a pathogenetic process that alters cortical GABA neuron ontogeny and produces the pattern of GABA neuron abnormalities, and consequently cognitive difficulties, seen in schizophrenia. First, we review available evidence from postmortem human brain tissue studies characterizing alterations in certain subpopulations of prefrontal GABA neuron that provide clues to a prenatal origin in schizophrenia. Second, we review recent discoveries of transcription factors, cytokine receptors, and other developmental regulators that govern the birth, migration, specification, maturation, and survival of different subpopulations of prefrontal GABA neurons. Third, we discuss recent studies demonstrating altered expression of these ontogenetic factors in the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia. Fourth, we discuss the potential role of disturbances in the maternal-fetal environment such as maternal immune activation in the development of GABA neuron dysfunction. Finally, we propose critical questions that need to be answered in future research to further investigate the role of altered GABA neuron ontogeny in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia.

David W. Volk, MD, PhD and David A. Lewis, MD: Prenatal Ontogeny as a Susceptibility Period for Cortical GABA Neuron Disturbances in Schizophrenia, Neuroscience, in press.

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David A. Lewis, M.D. | Department of Psychiatry | University of Pittsburgh
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