Behavior in the Lesch-Nyhan syndrome

Abstract

The Lesch-Nyhan syndrome is a heritable disorder of the metabolism of uric acid in which behavioral manifestations are prominent and among the most provocative. The mutated or variant gene that determines this disorder is carried on the X chromosome. The disease is expressed exclusively in males. The molecular expression of the abnormal gene is in the completely defective activity of the enzyme hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyl transferase. As a result these patients overproduce uric acid and may develop early in life many of the clinical findings we associate with gout. They have in addition a variety of neurological abnormalities including mental retardation, spastic cerebral palsy, and involuntary, choreoathetoid movements. Involved patients have unusual, compulsive, aggressive behavior. Its most prominent but by no means exclusive feature is self-mutilation. The central feature in the management of this behavior is physical restraint. A number of practical procedures have been learned which facilitate the care and feeding of these patients. Promising new findings suggest that behavioral modification using extinction techniques and pharmacologic methods utilizing agents designed to increase the effective cerebral content of serotonin may each have a place in the management of behavior in this syndrome.

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Correspondence to Dr. William L. Nyhan.

Additional information

Supported by research grants from the Public Health Service (DHEW), General Clinical Research Center #RR00827; from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health, #GM 17702; and from the National Foundation-March of Dimes, #NF1377.

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Nyhan, W.L. Behavior in the Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. J Autism Dev Disord 6, 235–252 (1976). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01543464

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Keywords

  • Uric Acid
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Gout
  • Transferase
  • Hypoxanthine