Autism Information

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mental Activity May Affect Autism-Linked Genes

A new research has suggested that some cases of autism arise from defects in genes that can be turned on or off by mental activity. This might somehow shed some light on the devastating condition and eventually lead to strategies to treat it.

The study, done by a large international team and reported today in the journal Science, adds to the growing evidence that autism may result from problems in the immensely complicated process by which some networks of brain cells expand and many others die in the first few years after birth.

The fact that three of the half-dozen genes identified in the new report are regulated by "neuronal activity" -- feeling, thinking, doing -- suggests in theory that changing the experiences of autistic children could change the course of the disease.

"The genes implicated in our study are ones that interact with the environment and are involved in how the brain converts what it sees from the environment," said Christopher A. Walsh, a neurologist and chief of genetics at Children's Hospital in Boston who headed the team. "If we can activate those genes by other mechanisms, we might be able to help the kids."

The study demonstrates that "environmental experiences and influences that shape postnatal brain development are not irrelevant," said Isabelle Rapin, a pediatric neurologist at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She added, however, that "we have but the most primitive ideas about what the proteins coded by identified missing or mutated genes do."

For everyone who's lives have been touched by autism, believe that there is still hope and that eventually, in the words of Obama, "Yes we can!"


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