Evolution's gift may also be at the root of a form of autism
A recently evolved pattern of gene activity in the language and decision-making centers of the human brain is missing in a disorder associated with autism and learning disabilities, a new study by Yale University researchers shows.
"This is the cost of being human," said Nenad Sestan, associate professor of neurobiology, researcher at Yale's Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, and senior author of the paper. "The same evolutionary mechanisms that may have gifted our species with amazing cognitive abilities have also made us more susceptible to psychiatric disorders such as autism."
The findings are reported in the May 11 issue of the journal Cell.
In the Cell paper, Kenneth Kwan, the lead author, and other members of the Sestan laboratory identified the evolutionary changes that led the NOS1 gene to become active specifically in the parts of the developing human brain that form the adult centers for speech and language and decision-making. This pattern of NOS1 activity is controlled by a protein called FMRP and is missing in Fragile X syndrome, a disorder caused by a genetic defect on the X chromosome that disrupts FMRP production. Fragile X syndrome, the leading inherited form of intellectual disability, is also the most common single-gene cause of autism. The loss of NOS1 activity may contribute to some of the many cognitive deficits suffered by those with Fragile X syndrome, such as lower IQ, attention deficits, and speech and language delays, the authors say.
The pattern of NOS1 activity in these brain centers does not occur in the developing mouse brain suggesting that it is a more recent evolutionary adaptation possibly involved in the wiring of neural circuits important for higher cognitive abilities. The findings of the Cell paper support this hypothesis. The study also provides insights into how genetic deficits in early development, a time when brain circuits are formed, can lead to disorders such as autism, in which symptoms appear after birth.
"This is an example of where the function of genetic changes that likely drove aspects of human brain evolution was disrupted in disease, possibly reverting some of our newly acquired cognitive abilities and thus contributing to a psychiatric outcome," Kwan said.
Provided by Yale University
- Found in the developing brain: Mental health risk genes and gender differences Oct 26, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Workings of brain protein suggest therapies for inherited intellectual disability, autism Jul 21, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Study finds first-ever genetic animal model of autism Dec 09, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Crucial progress in understanding Fragile X mental retardation protein Jun 06, 2007 | not rated yet | 0
- Neuroscientists find that two rare autism-related disorders are caused by opposing malfunctions in the brain Nov 24, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Two mutations central to the development of infantile myofibromatosis (IM)—a disorder characterized by multiple tumors involving the skin, bone, and soft tissue—may provide new therapeutic targets, according to researchers ...
Genetics 11 hours ago | 3 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Can human genes be patented? That was the question posed by Alan J. Snyder, vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies at Lehigh, and Lee Kaplan, scientific director of cellular and molecular genetics ...
Genetics 18 hours ago | 4 / 5 (1) | 0
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
Genetics May 22, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, in partnership with the University's Brain Tumor Program, have developed a new mouse model of malignant peripheral ...
Genetics May 20, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Northwestern University scientists have shown a gene involved in neurodegenerative disease also plays a critical role in the proper function of the circadian clock.
Genetics May 16, 2013 | 3 / 5 (1) | 1 |
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by researchers in the US has shown that an ancient virus can be modified to help in the fight against the simian immunodeficiency virus SIV, which is the equivalent in monkeys ...
16 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Women at a particular stage in their monthly menstrual cycle may be more vulnerable to some of the psychological side-effects associated with stressful experiences, according to a study from UCL.
13 hours ago | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Biological processes are generally based on events at the molecular and cellular level. To understand what happens in the course of infections, diseases or normal bodily functions, scientists would need to ...
14 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
How can healthy people who hear voices help schizophrenics? Finding the answer for this is at the centre of research conducted at the University of Bergen.
16 hours ago | 4 / 5 (2) | 2
(Medical Xpress)—The way Alzheimer's disease is portrayed by advocacy groups and the media is having undue influence on the euthanasia debate, according to a Deakin University nursing ethics professor.
17 hours ago | not rated yet | 2
(Medical Xpress)—Patients with diabetes who are depressed are much more likely to develop episodes of dangerously low blood sugars, or hypoglycemia, than are those who are not depressed, a new study has ...
17 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |