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Boosting Natural Marijuana-like Brain Chemicals Treats Fragile X Syndrome Symptoms

UCI study points to role endocannabinoids play in common genetic cause of autism

 

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 cognitive defects 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.

Benefits of Early Intervention in Addressing Brain Abnormalities

Preemptive cognitive training can help the brain function

 

Preemptive cognitive training—an early intervention to address neuropsychiatric deficiencies—can help the brain function normally later in life, a team of researchers has found through a series of experiments on laboratory rats. Their findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, hold promise for addressing a range of brain impairments in humans, including schizophrenia.

The study was conducted by researchers at New York University’s Center for Neural Science, the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, NYU Langone Medical Center, and the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research.

Researchers have aimed to address human neuropsychiatric impairments, such as schizophrenia, through mental training—for example, executive function exercises that teach patients to focus their attention and selectively recall important information. Historically, these methods, collectively titled cognitive remediation, have been of limited value because they have been applied to patients whose conditions are too advanced to address.

Autistic Adults Have Unreliable Neural Responses

Autistic adults have unreliable neural sensory responses to visual, auditory, and touch stimuli

 

This poor response reliability, the study’s authors conclude, appears to be a fundamental neural characteristic of autism.

“We are not suggesting that unreliable sensoryvisual, auditory, touchresponses cause autism,” cautioned NYU’s David Heeger, a professor in the departments of psychology and neural science and one of the study’s authors. “But, rather, that autism might be a consequence of unreliable activity throughout the brain during development. We’ve measured it in sensory areas of the brain, but we hypothesize that the same kind of unreliability might be what’s limiting the development of social and language abilities in the brain areas that sub-serve those functions.”

“Within the autism research community, most researchers are looking for the location in the brain where autism happens,” said the study’s lead author, Ilan Dinstein, who graduated from NYU’s doctoral program in 2009 and is now a postdoctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of Psychology. “We’re taking a different approach and thinking about how a general characteristic of the brain could be different in autism — and how that might lead to behavioral changes.”

New schizophrenia drug candidates entering prep for first-in-human testing

New drug candidates for schizophrenia are now entering the stage of preparation for first-in-human clinical testing

 

The Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery announced Dec. 15 that new drug candidates for schizophrenia generated from its ongoing collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Nev., are now entering the stage of preparation for first-in-human clinical testing.

“This is a major step forward in the evaluation of this approach as a potential treatment for major psychiatric diseases. It could lead to a fundamental advance in the treatment of schizophrenia,” said P. Jeffrey Conn, co-director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery.

New Translational Research Reveals a Useful Model for Studying Chronic Stress-Induced Hypersensitivity to Pain

Results from a new study offers insight into the brain’s circuitry involved in stress-induced hyperalgesia (SIH),

 

which may help lead to a better understanding of the development and maintenance of chronic pain states in patients suffering with conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fibromyalgia and neuropathic pain. This study was presented today at the American Academy of Pain Medicine’s 27th Annual Meeting.

Edward Bilsky, PhD, a Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Director of the Center for Excellence in the Neurosciences at the University of New England (UNE), presented results from a study today that examined the role of the rostral ventromedial medulla in a rat model* of stress-induced hypersensitivy to pain. The study was co-authored by fellow UNE colleagues, Ian D. Meng, PhD, and second year medical student Jacques Reynolds.

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