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Patricia Monteiro publishes important findings on the effects of chronic stress and moves to Porto

23.02.2023 14:54

Nature Communications has published a research paper by Branco Weiss Alumna Patricia Monteiro et. al. showing that chronic stress can trigger or worsen motor symptoms in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Stress is a natural adaptive response that helps organisms to cope with and overcome stressful situations. However, repeated exposure to stressful events, also known as chronic stress (CS), affects brain structure and function. One of the brain regions highly impacted is the striatum, which leads to impairments in striatal-mediated behaviors such as motor and action planning. This is seen in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders, namely obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. However, the mechanisms by which stress triggers motor symptoms are not yet fully understood.

In their study, Dr. Monteiro and her team demonstrate that CS functionally alters dorsomedial striatum circuits in male mice, particularly affecting somatostatin positive (SOM) interneurons and thus promoting striatal overactivation/disinhibition and increased motor output. The research proposes a causal link between dysfunction of striatal SOM interneurons and motor symptoms in models of chronic stress.

However, the researchers warn that it should be noted that the behavioral manifestation of prolonged stress exposure is a collection of separable behavioral symptoms that will likely rely on distinct brain areas and distinct neuronal microcircuits: “Understanding how striatal circuits contribute to stress-induced motor symptoms will not solve the neural basis of anxiety, OCD, or PTSD in its entirety, but is certainly an important step towards establishing symptom-specific treatments.” The findings of Dr. Monteiro’s paper may yield valuable insights for translational research in stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders. Targeting striatal SOM interneurons might provide an alternative therapy for treating stress-related motor symptoms.

On another note, Patricia Monteiro has moved her entire lab from the University of Minho to the University of Porto where she got hired as a research group leader in the Department of Biomedicine at the Faculty of Medicine.

Read the paper in Nature Communications