Through a collaboration with Dr. Lodge (University of Texas – San Antonio) leading a study on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new research article was recently published in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, co-authored by Dr. Sibille and Dr. Prevot.

Up to 64% of patients diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience psychosis, likely attributable to aberrant dopamine neuron activity. We have previously demonstrated that positive allosteric modulators of α5-GABAARs can selectively decrease hippocampal activity and reverse psychosis-like physiological and behavioral alterations in a rodent model used to study schizophrenia; however, whether this approach translates to a PTSD model remains to be elucidated.

We utilized a 2-day inescapable foot shock (IS) procedure to induce stress-related pathophysiology in male Sprague-Dawley rats. We evaluated the effects of intra-ventral hippocampus (vHipp) administration GL-II-73, an α5-GABAAR, or viral overexpression of the α5 subunit, using in vivo electrophysiology and behavioral measures in control and IS-treated rats.

IS significantly increased ventral tegmental area dopamine neuron population activity, or the number of dopamine neurons firing spontaneously (n = 6; P = .016), consistent with observation in multiple rodent models used to study psychosis. IS also induced deficits in sensorimotor gating, as measured by reduced prepulse inhibition of startle (n = 12; P = .039). Interestingly, intra-vHipp administration of GL-II-73 completely reversed IS-induced increases in dopamine neuron population activity (n = 6; P = .024) and deficits in prepulse inhibition (n = 8; P = .025), whereas viral overexpression of the α5 subunit in the vHipp was not effective.

Our results demonstrate that pharmacological intervention augmenting α5-GABAAR function, but not α5 overexpression in itself, can reverse stress-induced deficits related to PTSD in a rodent model, providing a potential site of therapeutic intervention to treat comorbid psychosis in PTSD.