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Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program

Peripubertal Brain Development

A primary focus of the Developmental Psychopharmacology Laboratory is to study brain changes during the adolescent period. These maturational events may: (1) dictate the extent that childhood disorders such as Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Tourette's Syndrome (TS) recede with age; and (2) directly or indirectly set the stage for the emergence of psychiatric disorders that have their onset in adolescence or early adulthood (e.g., schizophrenia, major mood disorders, stimulant abuse). We have focused on the dopamine system, which is strongly implicated in ADHD, TS, schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease, and addiction.

Major findings

  1. A synthesis-modulating dopamine autoreceptor emerges in the prefrontal cortex of rats during early development, but fully recedes during adolescence.
  2. Dopamine receptors are overproduced and pruned during the peripubertal period in the striatum of male rats but not in the nucleus accumbens.
  3. Dopamine D2 receptors are overproduced and pruned in corpus striatum of male but not female rats. This observation may explain why TS is far more prevalent in males than females, and why the disorder waxes and wanes during childhood and adolescence.