Biophysical Psychiatry-How Computational Neuroscience Can Help to Understand the Complex Mechanisms of Mental Disorders
SourceFrontiers in Psychiatry, 10, (2019), article 534
Article / Letter to editor
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Frontiers in Psychiatry
SubjectRadboudumc 7: Neurodevelopmental disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
The brain is the most complex of human organs, and the pathophysiology underlying abnormal brain function in psychiatric disorders is largely unknown. Despite the rapid development of diagnostic tools and treatments in most areas of medicine, our understanding of mental disorders and their treatment has made limited progress during the last decades. While recent advances in genetics and neuroscience have a large potential, the complexity and multidimensionality of the brain processes hinder the discovery of disease mechanisms that would link genetic findings to clinical symptoms and behavior. This applies also to schizophrenia, for which genome-wide association studies have identified a large number of genetic risk loci, spanning hundreds of genes with diverse functionalities. Importantly, the multitude of the associated variants and their prevalence in the healthy population limit the potential of a reductionist functional genetics approach as a stand-alone solution to discover the disease pathology. In this review, we outline the key concepts of a "biophysical psychiatry," an approach that employs large-scale mechanistic, biophysics-founded computational modelling to increase transdisciplinary understanding of the pathophysiology and strive toward robust predictions. We discuss recent scientific advances that allow a synthesis of previously disparate fields of psychiatry, neurophysiology, functional genomics, and computational modelling to tackle open questions regarding the pathophysiology of heritable mental disorders. We argue that the complexity of the increasing amount of genetic data exceeds the capabilities of classical experimental assays and requires computational approaches. Biophysical psychiatry, based on modelling diseased brain networks using existing and future knowledge of basic genetic, biochemical, and functional properties on a single neuron to a microcircuit level, may allow a leap forward in deriving interpretable biomarkers and move the field toward novel treatment options.
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