The "systems approach" to treating the brain: opportunities in developmental psychopharmacology

Silvia Bussone, Luisa Lo Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The significance of early life for the long-term programming of mental health is increasingly being recognized. However, most psychotropic medications are currently intended for adult patients, and early psychopharmacological approaches aimed at reverting aberrant neurodevelopmental trajectories are missing. Psychopharmacologic intervention at an early age faces the challenge of operating in a highly plastic system and requires a comprehensive knowledge of neurodevelopmental mechanisms. Recently the systems biology approach has contributed to the understanding of neuroplasticity mechanisms from a new perspective that interprets them as the result of complex and dynamic networks of signals from different systems. This approach is creating opportunities for developmental psychopharmacology, suggesting novel targets that can modulate the course of development by interfering with neuroplasticity at an early age. We will discuss two interconnected systems-the immune and gut microbiota-that regulate neurodevelopment and that have been implicated in preclinical research as new targets in the prevention of aberrant brain development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-215
Number of pages5
JournalDialogues in Clinical Neuroscience
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • brain development
  • microbiota
  • microglia
  • psychopharmacology
  • systems biology
  • therapeutic opportunity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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