Researchers from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University have been studying animals for years. This time research on our close cousins, the chimpanzees has yielded insight into autism. The scientists found that following gaze or looking in a pointed direction, both examples of joint attention, is quite heritable. This implies that there is a genetic basis to such social communication skills. The research published in Scientific Reports was lead by Larry Young and Bill Hopkins. Young’s previous study on the vasopressin receptor gene’s significance in social bonds and remembering people done on male mice played a significant role in designing this study. The team found that as many as two-thirds the chimpanzees were missing the RS3 element that is necessary for human social bonding and about 1/3rd chimps showed human-like sequences of the genes. Those with the human-like gene showed higher receptive joint attention and socially involved. The study proves the genetic basis of autism spectrum disorders and opens a new road towards better diagnosis and treatment for helping those with ASDs.
Teenagers with autism are less likely to exercise or play team sports
As reported earlier this week by Autism Daily Newscast, A Norwegian Study in the journal Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health found that teenagers with autism are less likely to exercise or play team sports than their typical peers. In the study, nearly 9,000 Norwegian teenagers answered questions about their physical activity levels. It was found that half of children with a psychiatric disorder fall into the lowest activity bracket — exercising less than once a week. They also report that nearly 20 percent of toddlers with autism are obese and that once they reach their teenage years they are more likely to spend their free time in front of the television or computer.
Grey matter thickness genetic link discovered, study reveals
A path breaking new research has found the most unexpected; the gene that links thickness of the grey matter of the brain has been uncovered. The study conducted by researchers from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry tested 1583 teenagers aged 14 years for their grey matter thickness and intellectual ability. Published in Molecular Psychiatry, the study was conducted by Dr. Sylvane Desrivieres and her team at the college. The study found that teenagers carrying a certain gene had higher cortical thickness of grey matter as compared to others in the study. The gene they identified is not a “gene for intelligence” but influences the thickness of the cortical grey matter of the brain that alters perception, language, memory, etc. So, knowing that this gene influences grey matter thickness, indirectly implies knowing that it influences the level of intelligence. The gene showed a 0.5% influence on intelligence in the tests delivered to the teenagers. The study will help understand the biological mechanisms that lead to various forms of intellectual disabilities.
Protein’s action on deciding fate of cell discovered
The researchers at the University of California, San Diego Health Sciences have discovered a new function of an old and well-known protein. Published in the journal Cell Reports the study was lead by Miles Wilkinson. Miles and his team found that the protein UPF1 played a vital role in deciding whether a neural cell will remain a stem cell and be utilized at a later date in life or become a functioning neuron. The protein is important in the NMD pathway, said researchers, so much so that deficient functioning of the NMD pathway was the reason for intellectual disabilities. The protein completes the biological circuitry that determines the fate of neural cells. This function of this erstwhile known protein was elusive to researchers. This new knowledge could lead to therapies for treating autism and schizophrenia where the intellectual capacity is often hampered due to the condition.