Drugs for the circuit-based human

Image from Wikipedia. Click for source.In a recent article for The Observer I noted that almost all the major drug companies had closed down their neuroscience divisions as evidence for a move away from a ‘chemical-based’ to a ‘circuit-based’ approach to treatments.

So to my surprise, a new Nature News article has just appeared discussing the re-launch of pharmaceutical giant Novartis’s neuroscience section.

However, as I read the beginning of the article, it seems they are just banking on the fact that they can design drugs good enough to hit individual brain circuits.

In a sign that psychiatric-disease research is entering a new era, the pharmaceutical giant Novartis has hired an expert in neural circuitry, rather than pharmacology, to head its relaunched neuroscience division.

The appointment of 42-year-old Ricardo Dolmetsch, who has spent his entire career in academic research, signifies a radical policy shift for the company, as it moves away from conventional neurotransmitter research to concentrate on analysing the neural circuitry that causes brain diseases.

Well. Best of luck with that.

I may be wrong, but I suspect dousing the brain in a chemical which is supposed to affect only selected circuits may be folly.

Then again, maybe we need to think outside the pill box. Perhaps microinjections of drugs directly into the brain is the future.

Either way, it seems the big money is being increasingly invested in the idea that useful treatments will be tweaking brain circuits.

Link to ‘Novartis reboots brain division’ from Nature News.


  1. ObjectiveReality
    Posted October 10, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    “Dousing” surely – they’re not going to use a pendulum or a forked stick to try and psychically detect brain regions are they?

  2. Larry
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    “Either way, it seems the big money is being increasingly invested in the idea that useful treatments will be tweaking brain circuits.”

    Indeed, the first company to claim it is persuing the latest fad has a marketing advantage over the competition. Novartis was one of the first companies to fabricate a chemical imbalance theory for ADHD, a strategy that was extremely effective at increasing prescriptions.

    Novartis was the first company to market an ADHD drug (ritalin), I would expect them to be ahead of the rest in the area of marketing psychotropic drugs.

    I suspect this is the reason for the reboot right here:
    October 18, 2012
    “Novartis Venture Fund has stepped up to spearhead a $7 million A1 round for the Cambridge, MA-based startup Neurovance. The fledgling biotech was spun out of Euthymics Bioscience under the same management group to handle the development of a new drug for adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a pipeline of central nervous system prospects.”


  3. Ian
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    This is my first comment to your very interesting and informative site. While my topic is about neurology, it is not specific to this article.

    My wife has Cervical / Segmental Dystonia, trauma induced from a car accident. We have had one specialist (neuro-legal) determine it was trauma induced, however other specialists either sit on the fence, don’t actually know or believe it to be psychogenic. While the term ‘psychogenic’ is interpretated id different ways, some positive,trauma induced dystonia (if not dystonia itself) remains in no man’s land. Any comments on this? Many thanks.

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