The Role of Kainate Receptors in Striatal Synaptic Plasticity, Development and Behavior

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Habits are actions taken without conscious consideration of a goal. The distinction between habits and conscious, goal-directed actions has been made for millennia. Only comparatively recently, however, have results from biological psychiatry and neuroscience begun to shed light on the existence of separable neural circuits that underlie our intuitive perception of these categories of behavior as distinct. Additionally, with in vivo and in vitro models, we can observe specific biological processes required for the proper function of these neural circuits. Kainate receptors are a subtype of ionotropic glutamate receptor (iGluR). iGluRs bind the most common excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian brain, glutamate. In this work, I will discuss how the kainate receptor governs activity in, and is required for the proper formation of, the striatum—a neural circuit that regulates habitual behavior in humans and animals. I will present evidence that the complete lack of kainate receptors results in profound behavioral abnormalities that resemble human compulsive disorders and produces marked alterations in the physiology of the striatal circuit. Additionally, I will discuss a specific mechanism by which kainate receptors regulate the strength of synaptic connections in the striatum.

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  • 10/28/2018
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