Nav: Home

Uncovering origins of developmental brain disorders could eventually help treat seizures

October 12, 2017

Recent research discoveries in the development of brain disorders could pave the way to new therapies for treating seizures, and even some children with autism, says a leading oncologist and researcher at the University of Alberta.

David Eisenstat and his team examined a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA which is essential to forebrain development in the embryo. They found that two specific genes, DLX1 and DLX2, regulate GABA synthesis during brain development, and that mutations to the genes resulted in abnormal brain maturation.

If these mutations happen during embryonic development, there could be several neurological problems: the child could become autistic, kids could be born with seizure disorder, or the developing neurons might not migrate to their proper site in the brain. In adults, there could be behavioural issues.

"Our findings have potential implications for autism and seizure disorders that currently aren't treatable--at least not by targeting GABA," said Eisenstat, the senior author of the study and chair of the Department of Oncology at the U of A as well as professor in the departments of Pediatrics and Medical Genetics.

According to the researcher, GABA is the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is produced when DLX1 and DLX2 genes act as a molecular switch, activating an enzyme that converts a chemical called glutamate to GABA. Problems occur when the balance between glutamate--an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and nervous system--and GABA fall out of sync.

"GABA tells the brain to slow down. Glutamate tells the brain to speed up. A healthy brain is found in the balance," explained Eisenstat. "In some ways we have figured out how to turn on GABA. And if, going back to these diseases, we have a better idea of how to balance glutamate and GABA, we could potentially come up with new therapies for treating seizures and maybe even some children with autism."

He said that while that may sound like a lot of hand waving, 25 per cent of children with autism have a seizure disorder.

"That's not well understood. It's not all because of GABA, that would be an oversimplification, but this hypothesis is worth further testing," he said.

Eisenstat believes the findings have revealed a new pathway scientists could use to treat developmental brain disorders by getting to the root cause of problem. He hopes other researchers now take up the work and build upon it.

"I think we've unraveled a pathway to begin to take something that wasn't druggable and make it druggable," said Eisenstat. "I think in some ways, it's coming up with smarter therapy."
-end-
The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Funding for the research was provided by the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Manitoba Health Research Council, Children's Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, Women & Children's Health Research Institute (WCHRI), and through the Muriel & Ada Hole Kids with Cancer Society Chair in Pediatric Oncology.

University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Related Autism Articles:

Genes, ozone, and autism
Exposure to ozone in the environment puts individuals with high levels of genetic variation at an even higher risk for developing autism than would be expected just by adding the two risk factors together, a new analysis shows.
A blood test for autism
An algorithm based on levels of metabolites found in a blood sample can accurately predict whether a child is on the autism spectrum of disorder (ASD), based upon a recent study.
New form of autism found
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) affect around one percent of the world's population and are characterized by a range of difficulties in social interaction and communication.
Autism Speaks MSSNG study expands understanding of autism's complex genetics
A new study from Autism Speaks' MSSNG program expands understanding of autism's complex causes and may hold clues for the future development of targeted treatments.
Paths to Autism: One or Many?
A new report in Biological Psychiatry reports that brain alterations in infants at risk for autism may be widespread and affect multiple systems, in contrast to the widely held assumption of impairment specifically in social brain networks.
Raising a child with autism
Humans are resilient, even facing the toughest of life's challenges.
Explaining autism
Recognizing a need to better understand the biology that produces Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) symptoms, scientists at Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI), Singapore, have teamed up and identified a novel mechanism that potentially links abnormal brain development to the cause of ASDs.
Autism breakthrough
Using a visual test that is known to prompt different reactions in autistic and normal brains, Harvard researchers have shown that those differences were associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway used by GABA, one of the brain's chief inhibitory neurotransmitters.
New options for treating autism
The release of oxytocin leads to an increase in the production of anandamide, which causes mice to display a preference for interacting socially.
The Autism Science Foundation launches the Autism Sisters Project
The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced the launch of the Autism Sisters Project, a new initiative that will give unaffected sisters of individuals with autism the opportunity to take an active role in accelerating research into the 'Female Protective Effect.'

Related Autism Reading:

Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism
by Barry M. Prizant (Author)

Winner of the Autism Society of America’s Dr. Temple Grandin Award for the Outstanding Literary Work in Autism

A groundbreaking book on autism, by one of the world’s leading experts, who portrays autism as a unique way of being human—this is “required reading....Breathtakingly simple and profoundly positive” (Chicago Tribune).

Autism therapy typically focuses on ridding individuals of “autistic” symptoms such as difficulties interacting socially, problems in communicating, sensory challenges, and repetitive behavior patterns. Now Dr. Barry M. Prizant... View Details


Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method That Has Helped Families All Over the World
by Raun K. Kaufman (Author)

As a boy, Raun Kaufman was diagnosed by multiple experts as severely autistic, with an IQ below 30, and destined to spend his life in an institution. Years later, Raun graduated with a degree in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University and has become a passionate and articulate autism expert and educator with no trace of his former condition.
So what happened?

Thanks to The Son-Rise Program, a revolutionary method created by his parents, Raun experienced a full recovery from autism. (His story was recounted in the best-selling book Son-Rise: The Miracle Continues and in the... View Details


A Parent's Guide to High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, Second Edition: How to Meet the Challenges and Help Your Child Thrive
by Sally Ozonoff (Author), Geraldine Dawson (Author), James C. McPartland (Author)

Many tens of thousands of parents have found the facts they need about high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (ASD), including Asperger syndrome, in this indispensable guide. Leading experts show how you can work with your child's unique impairments--and harness his or her capabilities. Vivid stories and real-world examples illustrate ways to help kids with ASD relate more comfortably to peers, learn the rules of appropriate behavior, and succeed in school. You'll learn how ASD is diagnosed and what treatments and educational supports really work. Updated with the latest research and... View Details


Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew: Updated and Expanded Edition
by Ellen Notbohm (Author), Veronica Zysk (Editor)

A bestseller gets even better!  Every parent, teacher, social worker, therapist, and physician should have this succinct and informative book in their back pocket. Framed with both humor and compassion, the book describes ten characteristics that help illuminate—not define—children with autism.

Ellen’s personal experiences as a parent of children with autism and ADHD, a celebrated autism author, and a contributor to numerous publications, classrooms, conferences, and websites around the world coalesce to create a guide for all who come in contact with a... View Details


I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism (A First Look At...Series)
by Pat Thomas (Author)

Psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas puts her gentle, yet straightforward approach to work in this new addition to Barron’s highly acclaimed A First Look At...Series. This book will help children understand what autism is and how it affects someone who has it. A wonderful catalyst for discussion that will help children to better understand and support autistic classmates or siblings. The story line is simple and easily accessible to younger children, who will learn that exploring the personal feelings around social issues is a first step in dealing with them. Full-color... View Details


An Early Start for Your Child with Autism: Using Everyday Activities to Help Kids Connect, Communicate, and Learn
by Sally J. Rogers (Author), Geraldine Dawson (Author), Laurie A. Vismara (Author)

Cutting-edge research reveals that parents can play a huge role in helping toddlers and preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) connect with others and live up to their potential. This encouraging guide from the developers of a groundbreaking early intervention program provides doable, practical strategies you can use every day. Nearly all young kids—including those with ASD—have an amazing capacity to learn. Drs. Sally Rogers, Geraldine Dawson, and Laurie Vismara make it surprisingly simple to turn daily routines like breakfast or bath time into fun and rewarding learning... View Details


The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
by Naoki Higashida (Author), KA Yoshida (Translator), David Mitchell (Translator)

“One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.”—Jon Stewart, The Daily Show

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
NPR • The Wall Street Journal • Bloomberg Business • Bookish

FINALIST FOR THE BOOKS FOR A BETTER LIFE FIRST BOOK AWARD • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a... View Details


Eating for Autism: The 10-Step Nutrition Plan to Help Treat Your Child’s Autism, Asperger’s, or ADHD
by Elizabeth Strickland (Author)

What your child eats has a major impact on his brain and body function. Eating for Autism is the first book to explain how an autism, Asperger's, PDD-NOS, or ADHD condition can effectively be treated through diet.

Eating for Autism presents a realistic 10-step plan to change your child's diet, starting with essential foods and supplements and moving to more advanced therapies like the Gluten-Free Casein-Free diet. Parents who have followed Strickland's revolutionary plan have reported great improvements in their child's condition, from his mood, sleeping patterns, learning... View Details


A Friend Like Simon - Autism / ASD (Moonbeam childrens book award winner 2009) - Special Stories Series 2 (Volume 1)
by Kate Gaynot (Author)

This is a special education childrens picture books that introduces autism. When an autistic child joins a mainstream school, many children can find it difficult to understand and cope with a student that is somewhat ‘different’ to them. This story encourages other children to be mindful and patient of the differences that exist and to also appreciate the positive contribution that an autistic child can make to the group - See more at: http://www.specialstories.net/autism/#sthash.x5rX5mVz.dpuf View Details


Autism Spectrum Disorder (revised): The Complete Guide to Understanding Autism
by Chantal Sicile-Kira (Author)

Newly revised and updated, this award-winning guide covers every aspect of understanding and living with autism today

Comprehensive and authoritative, Autism Spectrum Disorders explains all aspects of the condition, and is written for parents, educators, caregivers, and others looking for accurate information and expert insight. Newly updated to reflect the latest research, treatment methods, and DSM-V criteria, this invaluable book covers:

• The causes of autism spectrum disorders
• Getting an accurate diagnosis
• Treatments based on behavioral,... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2017

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2017. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Manipulation
We think we're the ones who control what we see, read, think and remember. But is that true? Who decides? And who should decide? This hour, TED speakers reveal just how easily we can be manipulated. Guests include design ethicist Tristan Harris, MSNBC host Ali Velshi, psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, and neuroscientist Steve Ramirez.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#443 Batteries
This week on Science for the People we take a deep dive into modern batteries: how they work now and how they might work in the future. We speak with Gerbrand Ceder from UC Berkeley, about the most commonly used batteries today, how they work, and how they could work better. And we talk with Kathryn Toghill, electrochemist from Lancaster University, about redox flow batteries and how they could help make our power grids more sustainable.