Studies of synapses and dendrites

Synapses and dendrites represent a potential site for pathology undetectable using standard approaches. Because they are hard to visualize directly, proteins localized to these parts of the neurone are used as markers.

A consistent finding is that markers of presynaptic terminals are reduced in the hippocampus in schizophrenia. The magnitude of the loss varies according to the individual synaptic proteins studied, implying that the synaptic pathology is not uniform. There is some evidence for preferential decrements in excitatory connections, in keeping with the indications of glutamatergic involvement mentioned above. Presynaptic markers are also reduced in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Complementing these changes, alterations in dendrites (the postsynaptic elements upon which most synapses project) have been shown in the hippocampus and neocortex. Although unproven, the simplest interpretation is that these changes reflect a reduction in the density of synaptic contacts being formed and received. (31)

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