Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Autism-related protein shown to play vital role in addiction

Date:
May 9, 2014
Source:
McLean Hospital
Summary:
A gene essential for normal brain development, and previously linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders, also plays a critical role in addiction-related behaviors, researchers report. The team used animal models to show that the fragile X mental retardation protein, or FMRP, plays a critical role in the development of addiction-related behaviors. FMRP is also the protein that is missing in Fragile X Syndrome, the leading single-gene cause of autism and intellectual disability.

In a paper published in the latest issue of the neuroscience journal Neuron, McLean Hospital investigators report that a gene essential for normal brain development, and previously linked to Autism Spectrum Disorders, also plays a critical role in addiction-related behaviors.

"In our lab, we investigate the brain mechanisms behind drug addiction -- a common and devastating disease with limited treatment options," explained Christopher Cowan, PhD, director of the Integrated Neurobiology Laboratory at McLean and an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "Chronic exposure to drugs of abuse causes changes in the brain that could underlie the transition from casual drug use to addiction. By discovering the brain molecules that control the development of drug addiction, we hope to identify new treatment approaches."

The Cowan lab team, led by Laura Smith, PhD, an instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, used animal models to show that the fragile X mental retardation protein, or FMRP, plays a critical role in the development of addiction-related behaviors. FMRP is also the protein that is missing in Fragile X Syndrome, the leading single-gene cause of autism and intellectual disability. Consistent with its important role in brain function, the team found that cocaine utilizes FMRP to facilitate brain changes involved in addiction-related behaviors.

Cowan, whose work tends to focus on identifying novel genes related to conditions such as autism and drug addiction, explained that FMRP controls the remodeling and strength of connections in the brain during normal development. Their current findings reveal that FMRP plays a critical role in the changes in brain connections that occur following repeated cocaine exposure.

"We know that experiences are able to modify the brain in important ways. Some of these brain changes help us, by allowing us to learn and remember. Other changes are harmful, such as those that occur in individuals struggling with drug abuse," noted Cowan and Smith. "While FMRP allows individuals to learn and remember things in their environment properly, it also controls how the brain responds to cocaine and ends up strengthening drug behaviors. By better understanding FMRP's role in this process, we may someday be able to suggest effective therapeutic options to prevent or reverse these changes."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by McLean Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. LauraN. Smith, JakubP. Jedynak, MilesR. Fontenot, CarlyF. Hale, KarenC. Dietz, Makoto Taniguchi, FebaS. Thomas, BenjaminC. Zirlin, ShariG. Birnbaum, KimberlyM. Huber, MarkJ. Thomas, ChristopherW. Cowan. Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein Regulates Synaptic and Behavioral Plasticity to Repeated Cocaine Administration. Neuron, 2014; 82 (3): 645 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.03.028

Cite This Page:

McLean Hospital. "Autism-related protein shown to play vital role in addiction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509172915.htm>.
McLean Hospital. (2014, May 9). Autism-related protein shown to play vital role in addiction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509172915.htm
McLean Hospital. "Autism-related protein shown to play vital role in addiction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140509172915.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Dieting At A Young Age Might Lead To Harmful Health Habits

Newsy (July 30, 2014) Researchers say women who diet at a young age are at greater risk of developing harmful health habits, including eating disorders and alcohol abuse. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

It's Not Just Facebook: OKCupid Experiments With Users Too

Newsy (July 29, 2014) If you've been looking for love online, there's a chance somebody has been looking at how you're looking. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

How Your Face Can Leave A Good Or Bad First Impression

Newsy (July 29, 2014) Researchers have found certain facial features can make us seem more attractive or trustworthy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins