Psychiatric diseases to be understood and treated ONLY by physiological measurements.
Recent epidemiological and genetic studies have pointed out common genes overexpression and/or alteration in psychiatric disorders and for some of these diseases, alteration in brain wiring functions as measured by high-scale brain scan. The first study (published by Dan Geschwind and colleagues from UCLA) reveals that many mental illnesses, such as autism, schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, depression, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders frequently share certain genes variations. The link between these genes and “neuronal firing” activity clearly suggest that ultimately, genetic alterations will lead to major impacts on elementary brain physiological properties, i.e. neuronal firing and synaptic transmission.
Psychiatric disorders genetic and clinical investigations
In another very large-scale brain scan investigation lead by the ENIGMA international consortium – the world’s largest brain mapping project – the authors arrive to the conclusion that the white matter wiring is impaired all over schizophrenia patients’ brains, rather than only in specific areas. This means that neuron’s function and neuronal connections may profoundly be altered in the whole brain of schizophrenia patients. Then, for many major psychiatric disorders both genetic and clinical investigations converge on functional alteration of neurons and neuronal network functions.
For neurophysiologists this shall not be a major breakthrough since we know that all basic and superior brain functions rely on the elementary properties of single neuron activities, synaptic transmission and global network wiring. However, these major observations stress out that the full understanding and the potential treatment of some of the major psychiatric disorders could not be performed without FUNCTIONAL measurements of single neurons and neuronal networks activities.
Multi-Electrode Arrays and Patch-Clamp techniques
The unique “excitable” properties of neurons allow recording their behavior in control or pathophysiological situations thanks to electrophysiological techniques. For more than 10 years, NEUROSERVICE promotes the use of functional assays based on neurons and neuronal networks recording with Multi-Electrode Arrays and Patch-Clamp techniques. Up to now, no other technique has allowed such a detailed resolution of delicate neuronal activities and their modulation by new pharmacologically active compounds. Such a functional pharmacological approach is mandatory to understand and to illustrate how new chemical entities are able to “correct” abnormal neuronal behavior and altered neuronal network functions.