Imaging agent to capture brain activity in real time

Researchers have developed imaging agent to capture brain activity in real time – a milestone towards a potential three-pronged approach to treating it. Their study involving rats that possess special neural receptors and mice with defects in the dopamine system was published in the latest issue of Science Translational Medicine.

While the intrinsic nervous system (NNS) regulates everything from physi tuning the limbs to the rate of heart beat psychosocial psychological processes wait to be controlled and controlled. They regulate motivation memory learning and different forms of addiction. It also regulates sleep which is required for complete recovery from pain and addiction. In addition the NNS has been found in many psychiatric diseases including schizophrenia bipolar disorder and attention-deficithyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Now researchers from Karolinska Institutet in collaboration with the GIRN psychiatric team at the University of Copenhagen have developed an imaging agent which together with a placebo was the basis for a six-month follow-up study (12 weeks) that investigated the impact of the compound on the attitude and behaviour of rats with and without existing AD.

Lead author Peter Johansson from the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet says: We noticed that the rats that already possessed neural receptors and mice in which the dopamine system was defective behaved well despite being subjected to a drug that showed no effect on the animals sense of body weight. This study shows how the new imaging agent works in a new way towards better treatments or prevention of addiction.

The team also used specially developed imaging and behavioural assays to examine the behavioural effects of the imaging agent as well as the level of dopamine neurons firing in the animals. Monitoring the rats behaviour revealed that the VTA nervous system which supplies the cingulate cortex and the cingulate striae with nerve input was activated; the receptor of the dopamine system was discovered to be dopamine receptors whereas the treated animals were dopamine-receptive 2-adrenaline neurons.

The results in this study show that this imaging agent worked through a dopamine receptor low on 1n3-type dopamine neurons. This finding may pave the way for future research on the effects of dopamine especially the role of the dopamine system on human behaviour explains senior author Peter Hedvigsen Director of the Centre for Research on Behaviour and Perception at Karolinska Institutet.

Future studies are expected to see the agent being tested in clinical settings and in diseases other than addiction. At the moment the company that developed it is not disclosing its commercial success.