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Common Protein Known to Cause Autism Now Linked to Specific Behaviors

[Source:  UCLA Newsroom]
The genetic malady known as Fragile X syndrome is the most common cause of inherited autism and intellectual disability. Brain scientists know the gene defect that causes the syndrome and understand the damage it does in misshaping the brain’s synapses — the connections between neurons. But how this abnormal shaping of synapses translates into abnormal behavior is unclear.
Now, researchers at UCLA believe they know. Using a mouse model of Fragile X syndrome (FXS), they recorded the activity of networks of neurons in a living mouse brain while the animal was awake and asleep. They found that during both sleep and quiet wakefulness, these neuronal networks showed too much activity, firing too often and in sync, much more than a normal brain.
This neuronal excitability, the researchers said, may be the basis for symptoms in children with FXS, which can include disrupted sleep, seizures or learning disabilities. The findings may lead to treatments that could quiet the excessive activity and allow for more normal behavior.

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