Autism - A Synapse-Opathy

Doctor Gul Dolen defines synapse-opathies as disease where the synapse is the part of the brain that is disrupted. Fragile X and autism are examples.

A synapse-opathy is a disease where the synapse is the part of the brain that is disrupted. Synapses are the place where neurons communicate with one another. They are microscopic junctions where neurotransmitters are released from one neuron’s axon and the post-synaptic neuron’s dendrites have these small protrusions called synaptic spines, and they are the receiving half of the synapse. Those synapses have receptors, and those receptors receive and transmit the chemical signals, the neurotransmitters. Those synapses are thought to be the unit of mass signal across neurons. So a synapse-opathy is a disease that affects those synapses, and we’ve defined Fragile X and autism as synapse-opathies because we’ve known for a number of years that patients with mental retardation and autism have disruptions in those dendritic spines and so they look different, there are more of them, in some cases there are less of them, in some cases they are longer and skinnier, in some cases they are shorter and fatter. In fact we think that plasticity of those synapses is what’s accounting for Fragile X and autism and that it serves as a way to think about the diseases rather than, for example, Parkinson’s disease. We think of it as primarily a disease of the dopamine neurons in a very specific part of the brain, whereas autism seems to affect the whole brain. There isn’t one specific brain region that is by itself involved. But synapses exist across the whole brain and so if the unit of disruption is the synapse, we call it a synapse-opathy.

autism, fragile x, synapse, synapsopathy, synaptopathy, synapse-opathy, dendritic, spines, brain, dopamine, synapses, plasticity, gul, dolen

Related Content

2367. Biochemical Treatments for Autism?

Doctor Gul Dolen discusses how new biochemical treatments for Fragile X Syndrome may be used to treat autism.

  • ID: 2367
  • Source: G2C

2365. Fragile X Syndrome - A Cause and Cure?

Doctor Gul Dolen explains that Fragile X syndrome can be considered a disorder of plasticity, mediated by metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors, and potentially treatable with pharmaceuticals.

  • ID: 2365
  • Source: G2C

2368. MGluRs and Treating Different Autisms?

Doctor Gul Dolen explains that there are many single-gene disorders on the autism spectrum, which may or may not respond to mGluR-related treatment.

  • ID: 2368
  • Source: G2C

2363. Fragile X Syndrome

Doctor Gul Dolen describes the key characteristics of Fragile X syndrome, which can include problems with language, mental retardation, and symptoms of autism.

  • ID: 2363
  • Source: G2C

865. Mental Retardation

Mental retardation: struggle, stigma, science.

  • ID: 865
  • Source: G2C

2037. Synapse changes during learning

Professor Kenneth Kosik discusses changes in synapses that accompany long-term potentiation, which include enlarged dendritic spines.

  • ID: 2037
  • Source: G2C

2366. Biochemical Breakthrough - Fragile X Syndrome

Doctor Gul Dolen discusses the significance of finding a potential biochemical treatment for the neurological disorder, Fragile X syndrome.

  • ID: 2366
  • Source: G2C

2370. Hyper-Plasticity and Savantism

Doctor Gul Dolen postulates on a potential relationship between savantism and hyper-plasticity.

  • ID: 2370
  • Source: G2C

2216. Dendritic remodeling

Professor Bruce McEwen discusses the remodeling of dendrites, which are affected by BDNF, TPA, cell-adhesion molecules, and a number of other factors.

  • ID: 2216
  • Source: G2C

837. Addiction as Overlearning

The idea that drug addiction is a result of 'learning gone wild' was bolstered by several reports.

  • ID: 837
  • Source: G2C