Boosting natural marijuana-like brain chemicals treats fragile X syndrome symptoms

September 25, 2012

American and European scientists have found that increasing natural marijuana-like chemicals in the brain can help correct behavioral issues related to fragile X syndrome, the most common known genetic cause of autism.

The work indicates potential treatments for anxiety and in people with this condition. Results appear online in Nature Communications.

Daniele Piomelli of UC Irvine and Olivier Manzoni of INSERM, the French national research agency, led the study, which identified compounds that inhibit enzymes blocking endocannabinoid transmitters called 2-AG in the striatum and cortex regions of the brain.

These transmitters allow for the efficient transport of at synapses, structures through which information passes between neurons. In , regional synapse communication is severely limited, giving rise to certain cognitive and behavioral problems.

Fragile X syndrome is caused by a mutation of the on the . People born with it are mentally disabled; generally experience crawling, walking and ; tend to avoid eye contact; may be hyperactive or impulsive; and have such notable physical characteristics as an elongated face, flat feet and large ears.

The researchers stress that their findings, while promising, do not point to a cure for the condition.

"What we hope is to one day increase the ability of people with fragile X syndrome to socialize and engage in normal cognitive functions," said Piomelli, a UCI professor of anatomy & neurobiology and the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in the Neurosciences.

The study involved mice genetically altered with FMR1 mutations that exhibited symptoms of fragile X syndrome. Treated with novel compounds that correct 2-AG protein signaling in brain cells, these mice showed dramatic behavioral improvements in maze tests measuring anxiety and open-space acceptance.

While other work has focused on pharmacological treatments for behavioral issues associated with fragile X syndrome, Piomelli noted that this is the first to identify the role endocannabinoids play in the neurobiology of the condition.

Explore further: Fragile X study offers new drug hope

Related Stories

Fragile X study offers new drug hope

September 24, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—An experimental drug can improve sociability in patients with fragile X syndrome and may be helpful as a treatment for autism, according to a study.

Recommended for you

Low glycemic index diet reduces symptoms of autism in mice

June 9, 2015

Bread, cereal and other sugary processed foods cause rapid spikes and subsequent crashes in blood sugar. In contrast, diets made up of vegetables, fruits and whole grains are healthier, in part because they take longer to ...

Neuroscientists reveal autism's 'noisy' secret

May 26, 2015

Strapped into a motion-enabled simulator and wearing 3D glasses, 36 adolescent volunteers recently experienced what it was like to "travel" through a field of virtual stars. The experiments provided new and convention-busting ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

encoded
not rated yet Sep 25, 2012
I knew it!!!!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.