Astrocytes as master modulators of neural networks: Synaptic functions and disease-associated dysfunction of astrocytes

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Astrocytes are the most abundant glial cell type in the central nervous system and are essential to the development, plasticity, and maintenance of neural circuits. Astrocytes are heterogeneous, with their diversity rooted in developmental programs modulated by the local brain environment. Astrocytes play integral roles in regulating and coordinating neural activity extending far beyond their metabolic support of neurons and other brain cell phenotypes. Both gray and white matter astrocytes occupy critical functional niches capable of modulating brain physiology on time scales slower than synaptic activity but faster than those adaptive responses requiring a structural change or adaptive myelination. Given their many associations and functional roles, it is not surprising that astrocytic dysfunction has been causally implicated in a broad set of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders. In this review, we focus on recent discoveries concerning the contributions of astrocytes to the function of neural networks, with a dual focus on the contribution of astrocytes to synaptic development and maturation, and on their role in supporting myelin integrity, and hence conduction and its regulation. We then address the emerging roles of astrocytic dysfunction in disease pathogenesis and on potential strategies for targeting these cells for therapeutic purposes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)41-60
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of New York Academy of Sciences.

    Research areas

  • astrocytes, astrocytic heterogeneity, glia, neurological disorders, synapse, white matter

ID: 371930154