NARSAD Grant-Funded Research Enables Important Genetic Discovery in ADHD

Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., Professor of Neurology at Harvard ADHD expert
Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D.

NARSAD Independent Investigator Grantee, Gabriel Corfas, Ph.D., is one of the authors of a new study that found that mice carrying a certain mutated form of gene displayed the human-like symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The researchers believe that mice bred with this unique genome will greatly assist in better understanding the cause of ADHD and identifying methods to prevent and treat it.

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed brain and behavior disorder in childhood. According to a 2011 statement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in 10 American children is diagnosed with the disorder.  This new research, led by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center found that mice carrying a certain mutated form of gene displayed the human-like symptoms of ADHD.  

The specific gene that was studied is called SynCAM1, found in glial cells—a type of cell in the central nervous system involved in cellular communication.  The researchers found that mice carrying a dominant/negative form of the gene were hyperactive and displayed more frequent activity during rest periods. The mice also exhibited reduced anxiety, similar to children diagnosed with ADHD. The mutated gene caused these conditions because it blocks the actions of the normal gene.

The research was led by OHSU and ONPRC scientists Jacob Raber, Ph.D., and Sergio Ojeda, D.V.M. “While some animal models for ADHD exist, they are far from perfect," says Dr.  Raber. "For instance, a rat model of this condition displays high blood pressure, also known as spontaneous hypertensive rats or SHR, which is not observed in humans with ADHD. When hypertension is eliminated by crossing SHR rats to another commonly studied rat breed, the resulting rat has normal blood pressure but no longer responds to the methylphenidate in a way that humans with ADHD do." "We believe that this animal model may more closely mimic ADHD and shed new light on this condition," added Ojeda.

The research was published on April 30th in PLoS ONE, a journal of the Public Library of Science.

Read more about this brain research