The cerebellum modulates the ability to socialize

Until recently, it was thought that emotions and social behavior were regulated mainly in the limbic system through the neurotransmitter dopamine. This brain region is related to the control of processes related to motivation, reward and satisfaction. However, in recent years, several studies have pointed out that the cerebellum, a region mainly associated with motor control, also plays an essential role in these processes, although until now, the exact way in which it plays has not been described. such a phenomenon occurs. An international group has shown in mice that, contrary to what was previously thought, there are type 2 (D2) dopamine receptors in the cerebellum, which modulate the social aspects of behavior in this region of the brain. The study, which has been carried out on mice, is published in Nature Neuroscience.

Through various techniques, including histological analysis, the study of cellular RNA and the observation of 3D images, researchers have observed that a group of cells in the cerebellum, called Purkinje cells, have D2 receptors. “This is a key discovery, because until now it was thought that the existence of receptors of this type in this area was almost nil”, explains Emmanuel Valjent, researcher at INSERM and coordinator of the article, in a press release.

In order to study the function of these cells, the authors have used gene editing techniques to overexpress or eliminate D2 receptors in the cerebellar Purkinje cells of adult mice. In addition, they analyzed the way in which these animals interacted with congeners that were unknown to them. “Through behavioral tests we have confirmed that D2 receptors are involved in the modulation of social interaction. In contrast, we have not observed any difference in the ability of animals to perform motor tasks or coordinate movements, so we think that these functions are controlled by other receptors”, explains Laura Cutando, Marie-Curie researcher at the Mitochondrial Neuropathology Laboratory from the Institute of Neurosciences of the Autonomous University of Barcelona and lead author of the article.

This study could shed light on the understanding of mental disorders in which social behavior is impaired, including autism, depression and schizophrenia.

The writing / Source: UAB

Reference: «Cerebellar dopamine D2 receptors regulates social behaviors». Laura Cutando et al. in Nature Neuroscience2022.

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