Behaviorally consequential astrocytic regulation of neural circuits

Jun Nagai, Xinzhu Yu, Thomas Papouin, Eunji Cheong, Marc R. Freeman, Kelly R. Monk, Michael H. Hastings, Philip G. Haydon, David Rowitch, Shai Shaham, Baljit S. Khakh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Astrocytes are a large and diverse population of morphologically complex cells that exist throughout nervous systems of multiple species. Progress over the last two decades has shown that astrocytes mediate developmental, physiological, and pathological processes. However, a long-standing open question is how astrocytes regulate neural circuits in ways that are behaviorally consequential. In this regard, we summarize recent studies using Caenorhabditis elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, Danio rerio, and Mus musculus. The data reveal diverse astrocyte mechanisms operating in seconds or much longer timescales within neural circuits and shaping multiple behavioral outputs. We also refer to human diseases that have a known primary astrocytic basis. We suggest that including astrocytes in mechanistic, theoretical, and computational studies of neural circuits provides new perspectives to understand behavior, its regulation, and its disease-related manifestations. In this review, Nagai et al. summarize recent findings and provide an interpretative framework for diverse astrocyte mechanisms regulating neural circuit functions and animal behavior in multiple species, including C. elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, Danio rerio, and Mus musculus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-596
Number of pages21
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 17 2021


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Danio rerio
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Mus musculus
  • astrocyte
  • behavior
  • genetic disorders
  • glia
  • microcircuit
  • neuronal circuit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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