Breaking News
November 14, 2018 - Study shows novel strategy to reduce breast cancer bone metastasis
November 14, 2018 - Empowering the NHS through Industry Partnerships
November 14, 2018 - One size does not fit all in obesity treatment, study finds
November 14, 2018 - Seeking ways to prevent ‘secondary cataracts’
November 14, 2018 - Change Within the Eye May Be Early Warning for Macular Degeneration
November 14, 2018 - Study of 500,000 people clarifies the risks of obesity
November 14, 2018 - Ultrasound releases drug to alter activity in targeted brain areas in rats | News Center
November 14, 2018 - Umass Amherst researchers battle against youth suicide in rural Alaska Native communities
November 14, 2018 - Cancer stem cells depend on amino acid metabolism, and it’s proving to be their Achilles’ heel
November 14, 2018 - Epigenetic link found between prenatal exposure to maternal smoking and offspring’s cardio-metabolic health
November 14, 2018 - Meditation, music may change biomarkers of cellular aging and Alzheimer’s disease in older adults
November 14, 2018 - Multidisciplinaryresearch teams selected to study age-related brain disorders
November 14, 2018 - The Current issue of “The view from here” is concerned with Informatics
November 14, 2018 - Researchers identify tool to help transgender women have a more authentic voice
November 14, 2018 - Four faculty members appointed to endowed professorships | News Center
November 13, 2018 - Research finds strongest evidence yet that obesity causes depression
November 13, 2018 - Researchers compare stools of breastfed and formula-fed infants
November 13, 2018 - Entasis Therapeutics Announces Zoliflodacin Phase 2 Results Published in The New England Journal of Medicine
November 13, 2018 - Gene changes driving myopia reveal new focus for drug development
November 13, 2018 - $6 million grant to support study of preeclampsia, atherosclerosis links | News Center
November 13, 2018 - Beneficial gut microbes metabolize high-fiber diet to improve heart health in mouse model
November 13, 2018 - Excessive use of social media through visual postings linked to increase in narcissistic traits
November 13, 2018 - Study finds why obesity both fuels cancer growth and helps immunotherapy to kill tumors
November 13, 2018 - Women prefer and invest more in daughters, while men favor sons
November 13, 2018 - With hospitalization losing favor, judges order outpatient mental health treatment
November 13, 2018 - Transgenic rat model may provide new insights into cerebral amyloid angiopathy
November 13, 2018 - Study identifies factors tied to greater risk of advanced liver disease in cystic fibrosis patients
November 13, 2018 - Risk of blindness among premature babies with low levels of blood platelets
November 13, 2018 - A new strategy for combatting antibiotic-resistant infections
November 13, 2018 - Study aims to find which outreach method is more effective at improving cancer screening rates
November 13, 2018 - Insufficient sleep duration linked with unhealthy lifestyle profile among children
November 13, 2018 - IIASA researchers introduce new, simple measure for human wellbeing
November 13, 2018 - Magnetic nanosprings used as targeted drug delivery agents for anticancer therapy
November 13, 2018 - Scientists examine FCMs containing silver nanoparticles
November 13, 2018 - Failed DNA repair triggers chromosomal chaos
November 13, 2018 - Study shows new emerging role of osteopontin in HCV-related hepatocellular carcinoma
November 13, 2018 - Food insecurity during pregnancy linked to severity of neonatal abstinence syndrome
November 13, 2018 - Majority of Americans are concerned about health threat posed by antibiotic resistance
November 13, 2018 - Addition of Elotuzumab Ups PFS in Refractory Multiple Myeloma
November 13, 2018 - Study finds women with pregnancy-related nausea, vomiting use marijuana more
November 13, 2018 - Lethal heart rhythm more likely to be found in patients with common heart failure
November 13, 2018 - Study provides new clues to origin and development of multiple sclerosis
November 13, 2018 - Climate change could pose threat to male fertility
November 13, 2018 - Researchers discover how mitochondria deploy a powerful punch against disease-causing bacteria
November 13, 2018 - AHA: Traumatic Childhood Could Increase Heart Disease Risk in Adulthood
November 13, 2018 - Feeling the Burn? | NIH News in Health
November 13, 2018 - Women’s birth canals in Kenya, Korea, Kansas not the same: study
November 13, 2018 - Fecal microbiota transplantation effective against ICI-associated colitis
November 13, 2018 - New physical activity guidelines released that urge people to “move more”
November 13, 2018 - Angiotensin receptor blockers improve sodium excretion in blacks
November 13, 2018 - New project seeks to address alarming injury rate in youth footballers
November 13, 2018 - Fish oil or omega 3 fatty acid supplements can prevent heart attacks finds study
November 13, 2018 - The Human Heart-in-a-Jar That Could One Day Replace Animal Testing
November 13, 2018 - Treat patients’ partners without a doctor visit
November 13, 2018 - Belgian beer landscape mapped using scientific insights
November 13, 2018 - ‘Master key’ gene has links to both ASD and schizophrenia
November 13, 2018 - Gladstone scientists gain new insights into the aging brain
November 13, 2018 - Drug therapy can improve outcomes for acutely ill heart patients
November 13, 2018 - Three landmark studies provide better understanding of sudden cardiac arrest
November 13, 2018 - Cholesterol control revised in the latest AHA/ACC guidelines
November 13, 2018 - Vulnerable young teenagers urgently need better sex education, say researchers
November 13, 2018 - Breakthrough research reveals how deadly pneumococcus avoids immune defenses
November 13, 2018 - Researchers discover possible path forward in preventing cancers tied to two viruses
November 13, 2018 - Wishes can help pediatric patients to get better over time
November 13, 2018 - Janssen Reports Positive Topline Results for FLAIR Phase 3 Study of a Novel, Long Acting Injectable Two-Drug Regimen for the treatment of HIV-1
November 13, 2018 - Experimental compound reduces Gulf War illness-like behavior in mice
November 13, 2018 - Small-stature in rainforest populations may be linked to cardiac adaptations
November 13, 2018 - Study shows how pneumococci challenge the immune system
November 13, 2018 - Simple cysts can be safely ignored, study finds
November 13, 2018 - First fully personalized tissue implant engineered from patient’s own materials and cells
November 13, 2018 - FDA Approves Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in Combination with Carboplatin and Either Paclitaxel or Nab-Paclitaxel for the First-Line Treatment of Patients with Metastatic Squamous Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
November 13, 2018 - Scientists take big step toward finding non-addictive painkiller
November 13, 2018 - Diabetes medication reduces risk of heart failure hospitalization
November 13, 2018 - Achieving high follow-up rates for violently injured patient population is feasible
November 13, 2018 - Shortage of specific gene ‘silencing’ molecules linked with pediatric low-grade gliomas
November 13, 2018 - Abx-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae Tied to Clinical Failure in UTI
November 13, 2018 - US approves first new type of flu drug in 2 decades
November 13, 2018 - Is zinc the link to how we think? Some evidence, and a word of warning
November 13, 2018 - Dispelling taboos, Michelle Obama talks IVF and miscarriage
November 13, 2018 - Medical experts discuss future challenges of healthcare at HSMA’s inaugural conference
Scientists reverse a sensory impairment in mice with autism

Scientists reverse a sensory impairment in mice with autism

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print
“We’re trying to identify early brain processes that will impact behaviors in children when they are older,” said Anubhuti Goel, a postdoctoral researcher in neurology at UCLA and first author of the study. Credit: University of California, Los Angeles

Using a genetic technique that allows certain neurons in the brain to be switched on or off, UCLA scientists reversed a sensory impairment in mice with symptoms of autism, enabling them to learn a sensory task as quickly as healthy mice.

The findings, which appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience, offer an intriguing glimpse of a potential strategy to help people with autism make sense of what their eyes see.

In humans, the ability to perceive visual information is critical to learning of all kinds, including the interpretation of social cues. In children with autism, avoiding eye contact and struggling to understand people’s feelings may be rooted in how their brains process visual information.

“The focus in autism has been trying to tackle social impairment. But if there is a deficit in learning due to being unable to process certain kinds of sensory input, it affects your development,” said Anubhuti Goel, a postdoctoral researcher in neurology at UCLA and the study’s first author. “We’re trying to identify early brain processes that will impact behaviors in children when they are older.”

For this experiment, Goel and colleagues at UCLA used mice with a similar mutation in the FMR1 gene as humans with fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that is the most commonly inherited cause of autism in humans. Mice with the mutation share a number of autism symptoms with people with fragile X syndrome, including anxiety, reduced social interaction and an overreaction to sensory stimuli such as texture and sound.

The researchers trained mice on a visual discrimination task, where the goal for the mice was to lick a drop of water in response to a specific visual cue on a screen. A pattern of parallel, black-and-white lines slanting a certain way signified the presence of a water drop; slanted a different way, there was no water drop. If the mice took too long to decide, the water drop disappeared—vacuumed up by the scientists.

On average, normal control mice mastered the strategy for getting water in about three days, whereas the mice with autism typically required five to nine days.

By recording brain activity in the mice, researchers found that the visual cortex of the fragile X syndrome mice, or FXS mice, had fewer and less finely tuned neurons called pyramidal cells. These excitatory neurons—the “gas pedal” in the brain—found in rodents, monkeys and humans, are responsible for perceiving the orientation of visual information, for example, the angle of the lines in the experiment. In addition, researchers found reduced activity in parvalbumin neurons, which are inhibitory neurons—the “brake pedal”—that work in concert with pyramidal cells, kicking them into gear and “tuning” them to respond to specific, or more general, bits of visual information.

The researchers wondered if they could prod those parvalbumin cells into working harder, which would in turn stimulate the pyramidal cells.

They targeted the parvalbumin cells with a genetic technique called DREADD, which stands for Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs. They injected the fragile X syndrome mice with a virus carrying the genes for these special designer receptors; once inside the mouse’s parvalbumin cells, the virus generates the DREADD receptors. Next, a drug administered intravenously reached those receptors and activated the parvalbumin cells.

Once the fragile X syndrome mice with the designer receptors received the drug, they could learn the visual discrimination task as quickly as their healthy counterparts did. The impact of the designer drug lasted for three to four hours.

“These experiments shed light on the brain circuit problems behind those difficulties in autism, and hint at directions we can pursue for treatment in the future,” Goel said.

Goel’s next step will be figuring out what happens in the visual discrimination task with sensory distractors, such as flashing lights or loud sounds. Many autistic children and adults are unable to tune out such distractors, which could contribute to poor performance in school and anxiety in social settings. Fragile X syndrome mice, too, have sensory over-reactivity, which could impede their learning.


Explore further:
Drug may reverse imbalance linked to autism symptoms

More information:
Anubhuti Goel et al. Impaired perceptual learning in a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome is mediated by parvalbumin neuron dysfunction and is reversible, Nature Neuroscience (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-018-0231-0

Journal reference:
Nature Neuroscience

Provided by:
University of California, Los Angeles

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles