A mechanistic link for CBD treatment of autism

Posted onMarch 26, 2018 AuthorJosh Kaplan Comments Offon A mechanistic link for CBD treatment of autism
A recent study published in the journal, Molecular Autism, provides mechanistic support for cannabidiol (CBD) treatment of autism spectrum disorder. The researchers found that children (~8 years old) with autism have lower levels of the endogenous cannabinoid, anandamide, than typically-developing children.

One of CBD’s many targets in the brain is the enzyme that breaks down anandamide. CBD blocks the activity of this enzyme, FAAH, to increase anandamide levels. CBD could therefore rescue the anandamide deficit in children with autism. If this anandamide deficits contributes to autism symptoms, then increasing anandamide levels with CBD could rescue autism behavior.

Endogenous cannabinoids provide an important break on brain signaling by reducing neurotransmitter release from one brain cell to another. In many cases of autism, there’s too much excitatory signaling in the brain and too little inhibition. Increasing inhibition by elevating endogenous cannabinoid levels could be one strategy to improve autism symptoms.

One caveat in this study was that half of the children tested were on a range of prescription medications. However, it’s unlikely that these medications affected the conclusion since pre-clinical rodent models of autism often have deficits in endocannabinoid signaling. Therefore, this human study provides an important validation for the pre-clinical findings of reduced endocannabinoid signaling associated with autism.

To date, there has been limited investigation of CBD treatment in autism. Our pre-clinical mouse studies demonstrated that CBD can improve sociability and rescue abnormal social behavior in autism. There is a clinical study underway in Israel, but it likely won’t be completed for another year. Until then, the benefits of CBD remain in the increasingly well-supported mechanistic link, pre-clinical studies, and accumulating anecdotal reports.

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Tagged anandamide, ASD, autism, Cannabidiol, CBD, FAAH

Josh Kaplan
http://neurokaplan.com
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