Research: “SHANK3 controls maturation of social reward circuits in the VTA”

The dopamine (DA) neurons of the ventral segmental area (VTA) modify some brain regions that control social and repetitive behaviors. Since SHANK3 coordinates excitatory synaptic function, this study examines the effect of decreased SHANK3 levels in the VTA on social behavior and neuron activity. ShRNA was used to down-regulate SHANK3 in the VTA of mice. A three-chamber social interaction test was used to measure social preference in mice. Whole cell patch clamp recordings were performed on VTA neurons in order to detect excitatory postsynaptic activity. Data indicate that SHANK3 deficiency reduces both social behavior and excitatory transmission to DA neurons in the VTA. However, once-daily PAM-mGluR1 injections normalized DA neuron activity and increased social behavior. Thus, the study identifies mGluR1 modulation as a potential treatment strategy.

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