Unraveling How Autism Disrupts the Early Brain (UCLA - IDDRC)

December 3, 2013

A UCLA study that is the first to map autism-risk genes by function and uncover how mutations in the genes disrupt fetal brain development was widely reported in recent news, including this Nov. 21 article by HealthDay News. Lead author Dr. Daniel Geschwind, the Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and first author Neelroop Parikshak, a graduate student researcher, were quoted. The Semel Institute is an AUCD member IDDRC.

Read an excerpt from the HealthDay News article below, and the entire HealthDay News article here.

Research Probes Autism's Origins in the Brain

Two studies identify gene mutations that act together to disrupt the brain's wiring before birth

By Brenda Goodman
HealthDay Reporter 

THURSDAY, Nov. 21, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Two research teams say they have pinpointed how changes in genes linked to autism act together to disrupt normal brain development.

Their studies, published Nov. 21 in the journal Cell, represent a leap forward in understanding the complex condition, said an expert who was not involved with the research.

"This gives us a moment in time when genetic risk for autism actually gets put into motion," said Robert Ring, a neuroscientist and chief science officer for the nonprofit advocacy group Autism Speaks. "This is very important."

That two research groups looking at different sets of genes came to the same conclusion "gives a lot of validity to the finding," Ring said.

Autism -- which impairs the ability to communicate, regulate behavior and relate to others -- is thought to affect about 1 in 88 children in the United States.

The mutations appear to come into play in mid-pregnancy. They interrupt the formation of specific cells that connect brain layers in a region that controls movement, sensory perception, conscious thought and language.

The changes appear to cause a sort of faulty wiring of the brain before birth, the researchers said.

They also said their findings might explain why early intervention programs, which enroll kids as young as 1 year old, help children with autism. Since their brains are still developing, they might be capable of correcting or compensating for some of these bad connections.

>>Full article: here