Schizophrenia is a complex disorder lacking an effective treatment option for the pervasive and debilitating cognitive impairments experienced by patients. Working memory is a core cognitive function impaired in schizophrenia that depends upon activation of distributed neural network, including the circuitry of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Accordingly, individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia show reduced DLPFC activation while performing working-memory tasks. This lower DLPFC activation appears to be an integral part of the disease pathophysiology, and not simply a reflection of poor performance. Thus, the cellular and circuitry alterations that underlie lower DLPFC neuronal activity in schizophrenia must be determined in order to identify appropriate therapeutic targets. Studies using human postmortem brain tissue provide a robust way to investigate and characterize these cellular and circuitry alterations at multiple levels of resolution, and such studies provide essential information that cannot be obtained either through in vivo studies in humans or through experimental animal models. Studies examining neuronal morphology, protein expression and localization, and transcript levels indicate that a microcircuit composed of excitatory pyramidal cells and inhibitory interneurons containing the calcium-binding protein parvalbumin is altered in the DLPFC of subjects with schizophrenia and likely contributes to DLPFC dysfunction.
Keywords: GABA; basket cell; calretinin; chandelier cell; dendritic spine; parvalbumin; postmortem; prefrontal cortex; pyramidal cell; working memory.
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