The latest study in finding the probable therapeutic fixes and understanding the mechanism of intellectual disabilities and autism has led researchers from Nebraska Medical Center to conclusive results.
Woo-Yang Kim, associate professor, heading the neuroscience department has led a team of enthusiastic researchers from Creighton University and UNMC into deep explorations of genetic mutations that are seen to reduce certain neuronal functions in the brain region.
Professor Kim explains, “This could be a breakthrough development as the team is successful in identifying pathological mechanisms for specific types of intellectual disabilities and autism conditions.”
Earlier studies have also pointed the disorders commonly occurring when a first-time mutational cause occurs. Nevertheless, the causes leading to abnormal social and cognitive behaviors were relatively unknown.
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Autism is a condition that impairs an individual’s ability to effectively interact and communicate with their other normal peers. A data available with Center for Disease Control and Prevention states 75% of the autism cases are also diagnosed with intellectual disabilities. Autism disabilities are further characterized by limitations in adaptive behaviors and cognitive functions.
At present, there are no general prescribed treatments or drugs that help in preventing conditions such as intellectual disability or autism. The team observes the present treatments focus more on physical therapies, behavioral management and educational necessities of an individual diagnosed with autism.
To further understand the results in-depth, the team created genetically modified mice and ran a careful analysis. Interestingly, the findings led the team into finding mutated genetic impairments into the GABA neurons that are believed to create a communication imbalance in the brain.
GABA functions by blocking the impulsive signals that trigger in the nerve cells of the brain. The levels of GABA play an important role in altering the mood or anxiety levels of an individual.
Lower levels of GABA thus can be linked to mood or anxiety disorders, chronic and epilepsy pain.
GABA is further seen to counter glutamate, as these are responsible for mediating brain activations. Nevertheless, many people are seen to ingest GABA supplements to overcome anxieties.
Professor Kim says, “When normal behaviors are concerned, the brain is seen to strike a right balance between inhibition and excitations. However, decreased inhibitions lead to surpassing the balance, leading to the brain in reacting to more excited levels causing abnormal behaviors.”
The team of researchers were successful in showing social and cognitive deficits induced in modified mice being successfully reversed by pharmacological treatments with modulating drugs involving GABA receptors.
The team concludes adding, “Our research has led to successful creating of designer mice that can be used for other related studies down the line.”
Nevertheless, the team needs to further refine the mechanism of the obtained results for a deeper understanding of the role of and involvement of GABA neurons.