Recent research has shown the effect of genetic mutations on the development of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Based on those studies, researchers have focused attention on the commonalities behind those mutations and how they impact the functioning of the brain.
In a new study, researchers found that genes linked to autism tend to be involved in the regulation of other genes and to operate preferentially in three areas of the brain; the cortex, the striatum, and the cerebellum.
The research was conducted by a team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and elsewhere.
The cerebellum is responsible for motor function and recent findings have indicated that it also contributes to the development of many social and cognitive functions.
In the study, the team tested one of the most prominent genes associated with autism, Pogz.
They chose this specific gene based on prior findings that links it to developmental disorders and overly friendly behavior in some patients on the autism spectrum.
They found the mutation led to hyper-social behavior, learning disabilities while also impacting the physical development of the mice.
Upon further research, the team also observed that the genetic mutation affected the proliferation of cells in the brain and inhibited the production of new neurons.
The researchers believe that this may be a reason why some children with the mutation exhibit smaller than average head sizes.
Based on these findings, they are hopeful this can lead to a better understanding of the relation between the cerebellum and autism.
While there are presently no effective medicines for the main symptoms of autism, this research may help develop drugs that directly change the neural processes in the cerebellum.
One author of the study is Professor Sagiv Shifman.
The study is published in Nature Communications.
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