Conor Liston

Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States

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Publications (29)

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    Siobhan S. Pattwell · Conor Liston · Deqiang Jing · [...] · Francis S. Lee
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Supplementary Figures 1-14, Supplementary Tables 1-2, Supplementary Notes 1-2 and Supplementary References
    Full-text Dataset · May 2016
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    Siobhan S. Pattwell · Conor Liston · Deqiang Jing · [...] · Francis S. Lee
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Fear can be highly adaptive in promoting survival, yet it can also be detrimental when it persists long after a threat has passed. Flexibility of the fear response may be most advantageous during adolescence when animals are prone to explore novel, potentially threatening environments. Two opposing adolescent fear-related behaviours-diminished extinction of cued fear and suppressed expression of contextual fear-may serve this purpose, but the neural basis underlying these changes is unknown. Using microprisms to image prefrontal cortical spine maturation across development, we identify dynamic BLA-hippocampal-mPFC circuit reorganization associated with these behavioural shifts. Exploiting this sensitive period of neural development, we modified existing behavioural interventions in an age-specific manner to attenuate adolescent fear memories persistently into adulthood. These findings identify novel strategies that leverage dynamic neurodevelopmental changes during adolescence with the potential to extinguish pathological fears implicated in anxiety and stress-related disorders.
    Full-text Article · May 2016 · Nature Communications
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    Full-text Dataset · Mar 2016
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    Full-text Dataset · Mar 2016
  • Martin J Lan · Binod Thapa Chhetry · Conor Liston · [...] · Marc Dubin
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved antidepressant treatment but little is known of its mechanism of action. Specifically, downstream effects of TMS remain to be elucidated. Objective/hypothesis: This study aims to identify brain structural changes from TMS treatment of a treatment resistant depressive episode through an exploratory analysis. Methods: Twenty-seven subjects in a DSM-IV current major depressive episode and on a stable medication regimen had a 3T magnetic resonance T1 structural scan before and after five weeks of standard TMS treatment to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Twenty-seven healthy volunteer (HVs) subjects had the same brain MRI acquisition. Voxel-based morphometry was performed using high dimensional non-linear diffusomorphic anatomical registration (DARTEL). Results: Six clusters of gray matter volume (GMV) that were lower in pre-treatment MRIs of depressed subjects than in HVs. GMV in four of these regions increased in MDD after TMS treatment by 3.5-11.2%. The four brain regions that changed with treatment were centered in the left anterior cingulate cortex, the left insula, the left superior temporal gyrus and the right angular gyrus. Increases in the anterior cingulate GMV with TMS correlated with improvement in depression severity. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study of brain structural changes during TMS treatment of depression. The affected brain areas are involved in cognitive appraisal, decision-making and subjective experience of emotion. These effects may have potential relevance for the antidepressant action of TMS.
    Article · Mar 2016 · Brain Stimulation
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: GABAergic and glutamatergic neurotransmitter systems are central to the pathophysiology of depression and are potential targets of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). We assessed the effect of 10-Hz rTMS over the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) of patients with major depressive disorder on the levels of medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and the combined resonance of glutamate and glutamine (Glx) as assessed in vivo with proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy ((1)H MRS). Methods: Currently depressed individuals between the ages of 23 and 68 years participated in a 5-week naturalistic, open-label treatment study of rTMS, with (1)H MRS measurements of MPFC GABA and Glx levels at baseline and following 5 weeks of the rTMS intervention. We applied rTMS pulses over the left DLPFC at 10 Hz and 80%-120% of motor threshold for 25 daily sessions, with each session consisting of 3000 pulses. We assessed therapeutic response using the 24-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAMD24). The GABA and Glx levels are expressed as ratios of peak areas relative to the area of the synchronously acquired and similarly fitted unsuppressed voxel water signal (W). Results: Twenty-three currently depressed individuals (7 men) participated in the study. GABA/W in the MPFC increased 13.8% (p = 0.013) in all depressed individuals. There were no significant effects of rTMS on Glx/W. GABA/W and Glx/W were highly correlated in severely depressed patients at baseline but not after TMS. Limitations: The primary study limitations are the open-label design and the inclusion of participants currently taking stable regimens of antidepressant medications. Conclusion: These results implicate GABAergic and glutamatergic systems in the mechanism of action of rTMS for major depression, warranting further investigation in larger samples.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2016 · Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN
  • Emily A. Ferenczi · Kelly A. Zalocusky · Conor Liston · [...] · Karl Deisseroth
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Motivation for reward drives adaptive behaviors, whereas impairment of reward perception and experience (anhedonia) can contribute to psychiatric diseases, including depression and schizophrenia.We sought to test the hypothesis that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) controls interactions among specific subcortical regions that govern hedonic responses. By using optogenetic functional magnetic resonance imaging to locally manipulate but globally visualize neural activity in rats, we found that dopamine neuron stimulation drives striatal activity, whereas locally increased mPFC excitability reduces this striatal response and inhibits the behavioral drive for dopaminergic stimulation. This chronic mPFC overactivity also stably suppresses natural reward-motivated behaviors and induces specific new brainwide functional interactions, which predict the degree of anhedonia in individuals.These findings describe a mechanism by which mPFC modulates expression of reward-seeking behavior, by regulating the dynamical interactions between specific distant subcortical regions.
    Article · Jan 2016 · Science
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Top-down prefrontal cortex inputs to the hippocampus have been hypothesized to be important in memory consolidation, retrieval, and the pathophysiology of major psychiatric diseases; however, no such direct projections have been identified and functionally described. Here we report the discovery of a monosynaptic prefrontal cortex (predominantly anterior cingulate) to hippocampus (CA3 to CA1 region) projection in mice, and find that optogenetic manipulation of this projection (here termed AC–CA) is capable of eliciting contextual memory retrieval. To explore the network mechanisms of this process, we developed and applied tools to observe cellular-resolution neural activity in the hippocampus while stimulating AC–CA projections during memory retrieval in mice behaving in virtual-reality environments. Using this approach, we found that learning drives the emergence of a sparse class of neurons in CA2/ CA3 that are highly correlated with the local network and that lead synchronous population activity events; these neurons are then preferentially recruited by the AC–CA projection during memory retrieval. These findings reveal a sparsely implemented memory retrieval mechanism in the hippocampus that operates via direct top-down prefrontal input, with implications for the patterning and storage of salient memory representations.
    Full-text Article · Oct 2015 · Nature
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is an effective treatment for medication refractory major depressive disorder, yet the mechanisms of action for this intervention are poorly understood. Previously we reported that therapeutic effectiveness is related to the strength of connectivity between the site of stimulation and the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC), a region implicated in the pathophysiology of depression. Here, we evaluate whether rTMS to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) for treatment of major depression is associated with structural changes in the left sgACC. Methods 33 patients with medication-resistant major depression had an MRI at 3T before and after a 25 day course of daily left DLPFC rTMS. A 50% reduction in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale-24 Item was considered a positive response. FreeSurfer, an automated software package that parcellates the brain using anatomical landmarks and generates volumetric data for regions of interest, was used to calculate left sgACC (subcallosal) volume. Results 14 patients were responders to rTMS. Left sgACC volume significantly increased in this group over the course of treatment (mean increase of 160.7 mm3, standard error +/- 56.5, t = 2.8, p = 0.01). Non-responders (N=19) had more variable sgACC volume changes that were not significantly different than zero (mean -36.0 mm3, standard error +/-101.1, t = 0.36, p = 0.73). Between-group differences were not significant (p = 0.14) Conclusions Changes in sgACC volume are associated with effective rTMS treatment for major depression, lending insight into mechanism of action and further highlighting the sgACC as a key node in mediating antidepressant response.
    Full-text Article · Sep 2015 · Brain Stimulation
  • Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Ect
  • Martin Lan · Binod T. Chhetry · Conor Liston · [...] · Marc Dubin
    Conference Paper · May 2015
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    Baila S Hall · Rachel N Moda · Conor Liston
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Stress-especially chronic, uncontrollable stress-is an important risk factor for many neuropsychiatric disorders. The underlying mechanisms are complex and multifactorial, but they involve correlated changes in structural and functional measures of neuronal connectivity within cortical microcircuits and across neuroanatomically distributed brain networks. Here, we review evidence from animal models and human neuroimaging studies implicating stress-associated changes in functional connectivity in the pathogenesis of PTSD, depression, and other neuropsychiatric conditions. Changes in fMRI measures of corticocortical connectivity across distributed networks may be caused by specific structural alterations that have been observed in the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and other vulnerable brain regions. These effects are mediated in part by glucocorticoids, which are released from the adrenal gland in response to a stressor and also oscillate in synchrony with diurnal rhythms. Recent work indicates that circadian glucocorticoid oscillations act to balance synapse formation and pruning after learning and during development, and chronic stress disrupts this balance. We conclude by considering how disrupted glucocorticoid oscillations may contribute to the pathophysiology of depression and PTSD in vulnerable individuals, and how circadian rhythm disturbances may affect non-psychiatric populations, including frequent travelers, shift workers, and patients undergoing treatment for autoimmune disorders.
    Full-text Article · Jan 2015
  • M. Dubin · X. Mao · R. Gordon · [...] · D. Shungu
    Article · Nov 2014 · Comprehensive Psychiatry
  • Conor Liston · Ashley C Chen · Benjamin D Zebley · [...] · Marc J Dubin
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is an established treatment for depression, but its underlying mechanism of action remains unknown. Abnormalities in two large-scale neuronal networks-the frontoparietal central executive network (CEN) and the medial prefrontal-medial parietal default mode network (DMN)-are consistent findings in depression and potential therapeutic targets for TMS. Here, we assessed the impact of TMS on activity in these networks and their relation to treatment response. We used resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure functional connectivity within and between the DMN and CEN in 17 depressed patients, before and after a 5-week course of TMS. Motivated by prior reports, we focused on connectivity seeded from the DLPFC and the subgenual cingulate, a key region closely aligned with the DMN in depression. Connectivity was also compared with a cohort of 35 healthy control subjects. Before treatment, functional connectivity in depressed patients was abnormally elevated within the DMN and diminished within the CEN, and connectivity between these two networks was altered. Transcranial magnetic stimulation normalized depression-related subgenual hyperconnectivity in the DMN but did not alter connectivity in the CEN. Transcranial magnetic stimulation also induced anticorrelated connectivity between the DLPFC and medial prefrontal DMN nodes. Baseline subgenual connectivity predicted subsequent clinical improvement. Transcranial magnetic stimulation selectively modulates functional connectivity both within and between the CEN and DMN, and modulation of subgenual cingulate connectivity may play an important mechanistic role in alleviating depression. The results also highlight potential neuroimaging biomarkers for predicting treatment response.
    Article · Feb 2014 · Biological psychiatry
  • Conor Liston · Joseph M Cichon · Freddy Jeanneteau · [...] · Wen-Biao Gan
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Excessive glucocorticoid exposure during chronic stress causes synapse loss and learning impairment. Under normal physiological conditions, glucocorticoid activity oscillates in synchrony with the circadian rhythm. Whether and how endogenous glucocorticoid oscillations modulate synaptic plasticity and learning is unknown. Here we show that circadian glucocorticoid peaks promote postsynaptic dendritic spine formation in the mouse cortex after motor skill learning, whereas troughs are required for stabilizing newly formed spines that are important for long-term memory retention. Conversely, chronic and excessive exposure to glucocorticoids eliminates learning-associated new spines and disrupts previously acquired memories. Furthermore, we show that glucocorticoids promote rapid spine formation through a non-transcriptional mechanism by means of the LIM kinase-cofilin pathway and increase spine elimination through transcriptional mechanisms involving mineralocorticoid receptor activation. Together, these findings indicate that tightly regulated circadian glucocorticoid oscillations are important for learning-dependent synaptic formation and maintenance. They also delineate a new signaling mechanism underlying these effects.
    Article · Apr 2013 · Nature Neuroscience
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: While a tumour in or abutting primary motor cortex leads to motor weakness, how tumours elsewhere in the frontal or parietal lobes affect functional connectivity in a weak patient is less clear. We hypothesized that diminished functional connectivity in a distributed network of motor centres would correlate with motor weakness in subjects with brain masses. Furthermore, we hypothesized that interhemispheric connections would be most vulnerable to subtle disruptions in functional connectivity. We used task-free functional magnetic resonance imaging connectivity to probe motor networks in control subjects and patients with brain tumours (n = 22). Using a control dataset, we developed a method for automated detection of key nodes in the motor network, including the primary motor cortex, supplementary motor area, premotor area and superior parietal lobule, based on the anatomic location of the hand-motor knob in the primary motor cortex. We then calculated functional connectivity between motor network nodes in control subjects, as well as patients with and without brain masses. We used this information to construct weighted, undirected graphs, which were then compared to variables of interest, including performance on a motor task, the grooved pegboard. Strong connectivity was observed within the identified motor networks between all nodes bilaterally, and especially between the primary motor cortex and supplementary motor area. Reduced connectivity was observed in subjects with motor weakness versus subjects with normal strength (P < 0.001). This difference was driven mostly by decreases in interhemispheric connectivity between the primary motor cortices (P < 0.05) and between the left primary motor cortex and the right premotor area (P < 0.05), as well as other premotor area connections. In the subjects without motor weakness, however, performance on the grooved pegboard did not relate to interhemispheric connectivity, but rather was inversely correlated with connectivity between the left premotor area and left supplementary motor area, for both the left and the right hands (P < 0.01). Finally, two subjects who experienced severe weakness following surgery for their brain tumours were followed longitudinally, and the subject who recovered showed reconstitution of her motor network at follow-up. The subject who was persistently weak did not reconstitute his motor network. Motor weakness in subjects with brain tumours that do not involve primary motor structures is associated with decreased connectivity within motor functional networks, particularly interhemispheric connections. Motor networks become weaker as the subjects become weaker, and may become strong again during motor recovery.
    Full-text Article · Mar 2012 · Brain
  • Conor Liston · Wen-Biao Gan
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glucocorticoids are a family of hormones that coordinate diverse physiological processes in responding to stress. Prolonged glucocorticoid exposure over weeks has been linked to dendritic atrophy and spine loss in fixed tissue studies of adult brains, but it is unclear how glucocorticoids may affect the dynamic processes of dendritic spine formation and elimination in vivo. Furthermore, relatively few studies have examined the effects of stress and glucocorticoids on spines during the postnatal and adolescent period, which is characterized by rapid synaptogenesis followed by protracted synaptic pruning. To determine whether and to what extent glucocorticoids regulate dendritic spine development and plasticity, we used transcranial two-photon microscopy to track the formation and elimination of dendritic spines in vivo after treatment with glucocorticoids in developing and adult mice. Corticosterone, the principal murine glucocorticoid, had potent dose-dependent effects on dendritic spine dynamics, increasing spine turnover within several hours in the developing barrel cortex. The adult barrel cortex exhibited diminished baseline spine turnover rates, but these rates were also enhanced by corticosterone. Similar changes occurred in multiple cortical areas, suggesting a generalized effect. However, reducing endogenous glucocorticoid activity by dexamethasone suppression or corticosteroid receptor antagonists caused a substantial reduction in spine turnover rates, and the former was reversed by corticosterone replacement. Notably, we found that chronic glucocorticoid excess led to an abnormal loss of stable spines that were established early in life. Together, these findings establish a critical role for glucocorticoids in the development and maintenance of dendritic spines in the living cortex.
    Article · Sep 2011 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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    Conor Liston · Matthew Malter Cohen · Theresa Teslovich · [...] · B J Casey
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Functional neuroimaging studies have identified multiple nodes of dysfunction in frontostriatal and mesocorticolimbic networks in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Yet relatively few studies have examined how structural and functional connectivity between nodes in these networks might relate to the behavioral symptoms of ADHD. Moreover, it is unknown whether abnormalities in connectivity are a primary cause of symptoms or arise secondary to common etiologic mechanisms. We review the most recent diffusion tensor imaging and functional magnetic resonance imaging studies of connectivity in ADHD to characterize associations between frontostriatal connectivity abnormalities and the behavioral symptoms of inattention and impulsivity in ADHD. Furthermore, we examine how structural and functional connectivity measures relate to environmental and genetic pathways to ADHD. Diffusion tensor imaging studies indicate that ADHD is associated with significant irregularities in white matter microstructure, especially in frontostriatal and select corticocortical tracts. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging studies implicate altered connectivity within a default mode network of structures active during introspective, task-free processes and disrupted interactions between this network and frontostriatal attentional systems. Deficits in functional connectivity within frontostriatal and mesocorticolimbic networks might give rise, in part, to ADHD symptoms. Conversely, structural connectivity deficits and ADHD symptoms might arise incidentally from a common etiologic mechanism, involving altered modulation of synaptic potentiation and pruning by dopamine and other factors during development. Collectively, these studies suggest that the core symptoms of ADHD might derive from dysregulated modulation of cortical plasticity in the developing brain, resulting in altered patterns of corticocortical connectivity that might persist into adulthood.
    Full-text Article · Jun 2011 · Biological psychiatry
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    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mouse models are useful for studying genes involved in behavior, but whether they are relevant to human behavior is unclear. Here, we identified parallel phenotypes in mice and humans resulting from a common single-nucleotide polymorphism in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene, which is involved in anxiety-related behavior. An inbred genetic knock-in mouse strain expressing the variant BDNF recapitulated the phenotypic effects of the human polymorphism. Both were impaired in extinguishing a conditioned fear response, which was paralleled by atypical frontoamygdala activity in humans. Thus, this variant BDNF allele may play a role in anxiety disorders showing impaired learning of cues that signal safety versus threat and in the efficacy of treatments that rely on extinction mechanisms, such as exposure therapy.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2010 · Science
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    C Liston · B S McEwen · B J Casey
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Relatively little is known about the long-term neurobiological sequelae of chronic stress, which predisposes susceptible patients to neuropsychiatric conditions affecting the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Animal models and human neuroimaging experiments provide complementary insights, yet efforts to integrate the two are often complicated by limitations inherent in drawing comparisons between unrelated studies with disparate designs. Translating from a rodent model of chronic stress where we have shown reversible disruption of PFC function, we show that psychosocial stress induces long-lasting but reversible impairments in behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) measures of PFC function in humans. Twenty healthy adults, exposed to 1 month of psychosocial stress, confirmed by a validated rating scale, were scanned while performing a PFC-dependent attention-shifting task. One month later, they returned for a second scanning session after a period of reduced stress, and their performance was compared with a twice-scanned, matched group of low-stress controls. Psychosocial stress selectively impaired attentional control and disrupted functional connectivity within a frontoparietal network that mediates attention shifts. These effects were reversible: after one month of reduced stress, the same subjects showed no significant differences from controls. These results highlight the plasticity of PFC networks in healthy human subjects and suggest one mechanism by which disrupted plasticity may contribute to cognitive impairments characteristic of stress-related neuropsychiatric conditions in susceptible individuals.
    Full-text Article · Feb 2009 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Publication Stats

3k Citations


  • 2015
    • Stanford University
      Stanford, California, United States
  • 2005
    • Weill Cornell Medical College
      • Department of Psychiatry
      New York City, New York, United States