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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Dysfunctional GABAergic inhibition in the prefrontal cortex leading to "psychotic" hyperactivation

Shoji Tanaka

Author Affiliations

Department of Information and Communication Sciences, Sophia University, 7-1 Kioicho, Chiyodaku, Tokyo, 102-8554, Japan

BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-41

Published: 25 April 2008



The GABAergic system in the brain seems to be dysfunctional in various psychiatric disorders. Many studies have suggested so far that, in schizophrenia patients, GABAergic inhibition is selectively but consistently reduced in the prefrontal cortex (PFC).


This study used a computational model of the PFC to investigate the dynamics of the PFC circuit with and without chandelier cells and other GABAergic interneurons. The inhibition by GABAergic interneurons other than chandelier cells effectively regulated the PFC activity with rather low or modest levels of dopaminergic neurotransmission. This activity of the PFC is associated with normal cognitive functions and has an inverted-U shaped profile of dopaminergic modulation. In contrast, the chandelier cell-type inhibition affected only the PFC circuit dynamics in hyperdopaminergic conditions. Reduction of chandelier cell-type inhibition resulted in bistable dynamics of the PFC circuit, in which the upper stable state is associated with a hyperactive mode. When both types of inhibition were reduced, this hyperactive mode and the conventional inverted-U mode merged.


The results of our simulation suggest that, in schizophrenia, a reduction of GABAergic inhibition increases vulnerability to psychosis by (i) producing the hyperactive mode of the PFC with hyperdopaminergic neurotransmission by dysfunctional chandelier cells and (ii) increasing the probability of the transition to the hyperactive mode from the conventional inverted-U mode by dysfunctional GABAergic interneurons.