World-first discovery

Kolling Institute scientist Dr Yo Otsu and a team of researchers have discovered a unique receptor in the brain which can regulate negative moods.

The finding is the culmination of eight years of painstaking investigation, involving Dr Otsu and researchers from France, Canada and Hungary.

The research has been published in the top academic journal Science, highlighting the discovery of the excitatory glycine receptor in a little known region of the adult brain, the medial habenula.

Dr Otsu, who is the first author on the paper, said he and his colleagues now believe the receptor plays a role in regulating negative moods.

“The function of the medial habenula is not very well understood, but it is thought to play a role in depression, stress, anxiety and nicotine addiction,” said Dr. Otsu.

“Therefore, the discovery of this rare type of receptor and its role in modulating anxiety means it has the potential to be a highly specific target for mood regulating drugs.

“Existing medications to treat conditions like anxiety and depression have side effects because they affect the whole brain.

“The discovery of this receptor offers the potential to create much more targeted medicines with fewer side-effects,” he said.

Dr Karin Aubrey from the Pain Management Research Institute’s Neurobiology of Pain Lab, where Dr. Otsu now works, said the finding opens up a whole new area of brain research.

“We will begin new research within the Kolling Institute to further understand the role of this receptor, with the ultimate goal of developing medications to target it,” Dr Aubrey said.