Researchers link genes and motor skills development

August 10, 2017, City College of New York
Topography of the primary motor cortex, on an outline drawing of the human brain. Different body parts are represented by distinct areas, lined up along a fold called the central sulcus. Credit: public domain

Genes for many may be widely associated with determining certain traits and characteristics. Now a study co-led by John H. Martin of The CUNY School of Medicine at The City College of New York is demonstrating that they could also influence neural motor skills. This could lead to new insights in the treatment of motor skills impairments such as Cerebral Palsy.

Martin and his collaborators from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Yutaka Yoshida and Zirong Gu, found that the lost function of two genes prevent infant laboratory mice from developing as they mature into adults. The cause is neural circuits between the brain's cortex region and the spinal cord that did not properly reorganize in mice as they matured. These circuits are part of the cortical spinal network, which coordinates the activation of muscles in limbs.

The mice were bred to lack molecular signaling from the Bax/Bak genetic pathway. Through a variety of experiments, the researchers demonstrated how Bax/Bak's downstream molecular targets are vital to developing appropriately sophisticated connections between the motor cortex, spinal circuits and opposing extensor/flexor muscle groups in the animals.

"If mutations in the Bax/Bak pathway are found in human patients with developmental motor disabilities, these findings could be very translational and lead to possible medical applications," said Yoshida, Martin's co-lead author.

Martin said it is believed that neuronal activity and movement experiences regulate the formation and function of motor circuits as an animal or person matures. "We show that the Bax/Bak pathway is important for this process. This finding may help us better understand the underlying biological mechanisms of motor development," noted.

The team's goal is for future studies to determine whether disruptions in Bax/Bak are implicated in some people with skilled motor disabilities and whether it also regulates reorganization of other in the mammalian central nervous system.

The study was published in the journal Neuron.

Explore further: Study suggests genetic reason for impaired skilled movements

Related Stories

Study suggests genetic reason for impaired skilled movements

May 3, 2017
Scientists report in Neuron the lost function of two genes prevents infant laboratory mice from developing motor skills as they mature into adults. Researchers also suggest in their study that people with certain motor development ...

Scientists block evolution's molecular nerve pruning in rodents

July 27, 2017
Researchers investigating why some people suffer from motor disabilities report they may have dialed back evolution's clock a few ticks by blocking molecular pruning of sophisticated brain-to-limb nerve connections in maturing ...

Researchers show first evidence of using cortical targets to improve motor function

June 22, 2017
Monica A. Perez, P.T., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Neurological Surgery and The Miami Project, and colleagues, recently published A novel cortical target to enhance hand motor output in humans with spinal cord ...

Trigger mechanism for recovery after spinal cord injury revealed

December 18, 2014
After an incomplete spinal cord injury, the body can partially recover basic motor function. So-called muscle spindles and associated sensory circuits back to the spinal cord promote the establishment of novel neuronal connections ...

Biologists discover new strategy to treat central nervous system injury

April 11, 2016
Neurobiologists at UC San Diego have discovered how signals that orchestrate the construction of the nervous system also influence recovery after traumatic injury. They also found that manipulating these signals can enhance ...

Anatomical blueprint for motor antagonism identified

October 20, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Walking or movement in general, comes so naturally to us, yet it results from a sophisticated interplay between the nervous system and muscles. Little is known about the neuronal blueprint that ensures ...

Recommended for you

Electrical implant reduces 'invisible' symptoms of man's spinal cord injury

February 19, 2018
An experimental treatment that sends electrical currents through the spinal cord has improved "invisible" yet debilitating side effects for a B.C. man with a spinal cord injury.

Lab-grown human cerebellar cells yield clues to autism

February 16, 2018
Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain's cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children's Hospital used stem cell technology ...

Fragile X syndrome neurons can be restored, study shows

February 16, 2018
Fragile X syndrome is the most frequent cause of intellectual disability in males, affecting one out of every 3,600 boys born. The syndrome can also cause autistic traits, such as social and communication deficits, as well ...

Brain-machine interface study suggests how brains prepare for action

February 16, 2018
Somewhere right now in Pyeongchang, South Korea, an Olympic skier is thinking through the twists and spins she'll make in the aerial competition, a speed skater is visualizing how he'll sneak past a competitor on the inside ...

Humans blink strategically in response to environmental demands

February 16, 2018
If a brief event in our surroundings is about to happen, it is probably better not to blink during that moment. A team of researchers at the Centre for Cognitive Science from Technische Universität Darmstadt published a ...

Model for producing brain's 'helper cells' could lead to treatments for Alzheimer's

February 16, 2018
A Swedish research team has published a new protocol with the potential for industrial-scale production of the brain helper cells known as astrocytes. Their work could help medical science develop treatments for such diseases ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.