Chemogenetics identifies separate area 25 brain circuits involved in anhedonia and anxiety in marmosets.


Poor outcomes are common in individuals with anxiety and depression, and the brain circuits underlying symptoms and treatment responses remain elusive. To elucidate these neural circuits, experimental studies must specifically manipulate them, which is only possible in animals. Here, we used a chemogenetics strategy involving engineered designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) to activate a region of the marmoset brain that is dysfunctional in human patients with major depressive disorder, called the subcallosal anterior cingulate cortex area 25 (scACC-25). Using this DREADDs system, we identified separate scACC-25 neural circuits that underlie specific components of anhedonia and anxiety in marmosets. Activation of the neural pathway connecting the scACC-25 to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) caused blunting of anticipatory arousal (a form of anhedonia) in marmosets in response to a reward-associated conditioned stimulus in an appetitive Pavlovian discrimination test. Separately, activation of the circuit between the scACC-25 and the amygdala increased a measure of anxiety (the threat response score) when marmosets were presented with an uncertain threat (human intruder test). Using the anhedonia data, we then showed that the fast-acting antidepressant ketamine when infused into the NAc of marmosets prevented anhedonia after scACC-25 activation for more than 1 week. These neurobiological findings provide targets that could contribute to the development of new treatment strategies.