Introduction: Dysregulation of neuronal networks has been suggested to underlie the cognitive and perceptual abnormalities observed schizophrenia.
Discussions: An in vitro model of psychosis is proposed based on the two different approaches to cause aberrant network activity in layer V pyramidal cells of prefrontal brain slices: (1) psychedelic hallucinogens such as lysergic acid diethylamide and (2) minimal GABA(A) receptor antagonism, modeling the GABA interneuron deficit in schizophrenia. A test of this model would be to determine if drugs that normalize aberrant networks in brain slices have efficacy in the treatment of schizophrenia. Selective agonists of glutamate mGlu2/3 metabotropic receptors, which are highly effective in suppressing aberrant network activity in slices, are the most advanced toward reaching that clinical endpoint. In accord with the model, a recent phase II clinical trial shows that an mGlu2/3 receptor agonist is equivalent in efficacy to a standard antipsychotic drug for both negative and positive symptoms in schizophrenic patients, but without the usual side effects. D1/5 dopamine receptor agonists are also effective in normalizing aberrant network activity induced by both hallucinogens and minimal GABA(A) antagonism; clinical efficacy remains to be determined. A general model of network regulation is presented, involving astrocytes, GABA interneurons, and glutamatergic pyramidal cells, revealing a wide range of potential sites hitherto not considered as therapeutic targets.