Research ArticleAutism Spectrum Disorder

GABAA receptor availability is not altered in adults with autism spectrum disorder or in mouse models

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Science Translational Medicine  03 Oct 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 461, eaam8434
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aam8434

A window into the ASD brain

A leading hypothesis for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is that this condition is associated with an imbalance between excitatory glutamate and inhibitory GABA neurotransmission in the brain. To investigate one aspect of GABA signaling, Horder et al. measured the availability of the GABAA receptor in adults with ASD using positron emission tomography. No differences were found compared to control subjects without ASD in two studies performed at different clinical centers. GABAA receptor availability was also normal in three different mouse models of ASD. However, adults with ASD did display altered performance on a GABA-sensitive perceptual task, suggesting that although GABAA receptor density seemed to be normal, GABA signaling pathways could be impaired.

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