Study Rationale: Parkinson’s disease patients often experience depression and anxiety. Addressing these non-motor symptoms has not been the focus of Parkinson’s disease research though psychiatric symptoms can be just as disruptive for patients and families as the motor aspects of the disease.
Hypothesis: The investigators hypothesize that circuits in a specific brain region can be targeted by therapeutics to treat depression and anxiety related to Parkinson’s.
Study Design: The study will employ optogenetic tools, which use light to control genetically modified neurons (i.e., brain cells). The investigators plan to use these tools to identify circuits between brain regions related to emotional control and regions in the basal ganglia related to motor function. These circuits may be damaged in Parkinson’s and may also be implicated in the development of non-motor symptoms. They will use optogenetics to first screen candidate brain circuits and then confirm their function to prevent anxiety and depression in a model of Parkinson’s disease. Additional physiological measurements will provide insight into how the circuits are able to normalize network activity across the brain.
Impact on Diagnosis/Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease: This project will identify novel therapeutic brain circuits and mechanisms that can be targeted to address the specific needs of Parkinson’s disease patients experiencing anxiety and depression related to neurodegeneration.
Next Steps for Development: If successful, results from this project will lay the groundwork for new drugs and therapies that target the specific circuits identified. This approach could also give rise to biomarkers for diagnosis and patient stratification.