An upcoming application of a novel model of human brain development and degeneration pioneered by a UCLA neuroscientist identifies disruption of myelination as a key neurobiological component behind childhood developmental disorders and addictive behaviors.
Detailed in an article in press with the upcoming annual peer-reviewed publication Adolescent Psychiatry (Hillsdale, N.J.; The Analytic Press Inc.; 2005) the analysis suggests that many factors can disrupt myelination and contribute to or worsen disorders such as autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia.
In addition, the analysis suggests that alcohol and other drugs of abuse have toxic effects on the myelination process in some adolescents, contributing to poor treatment outcomes and exacerbating co-existing psychiatric disorders.
Author Dr. George Bartzokis, a professor of neurology at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, concludes that the high incidence of impulsive behaviors that characterize the teen years as well as many psychiatric disorders that occur in the teens and 20s are related to incomplete myelination of inhibitory "stop" brain circuits, while the "go" circuits become fully functional earlier in development. These inhibitory circuits are not on line to quickly interrupt high-risk behaviors that are so prevalent in teens and young adults.
"Myelination, a process uniquely elaborated in humans, arguably is the most important and most vulnerable process of brain development as we mature and age," said Bartzokis, who directs the UCLA Memory Disorders and Alzheimer's Disease Clinic and the Clinical Core of the UCLA Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
"Environmental toxins, genetic predispositions and even diet appear to influence and sometimes disrupt this process," he added. "By shift
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University of California - Los Angeles