Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolution's gift may also be at the root of a form of autism

Date:
May 10, 2012
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
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 shows.

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.

More than 20 U.S. and international scientists contributed to the research, which was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Kavli Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. The original article was written by By Bill Hathaway. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Kenneth Y. Kwan, Mandy M.S. Lam, Matthew B. Johnson, Umber Dube, Sungbo Shim, Mladen-Roko Rašin, André M.M. Sousa, Sofia Fertuzinhos, Jie-Guang Chen, Jon I. Arellano, Daniel W. Chan, Mihovil Pletikos, Lana Vasung, David H. Rowitch, Eric J. Huang, Michael L. Schwartz, Rob Willemsen, Ben A. Oostra, Pasko Rakic, Marija Heffer, Ivica Kostović, Milos Judaš, Nenad Šestan. Species-Dependent Posttranscriptional Regulation of NOS1 by FMRP in the Developing Cerebral Cortex. Cell, 2012; 149 (4): 899 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.02.060

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Evolution's gift may also be at the root of a form of autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120510122806.htm>.
Yale University. (2012, May 10). Evolution's gift may also be at the root of a form of autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120510122806.htm
Yale University. "Evolution's gift may also be at the root of a form of autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120510122806.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins