Monday, July 8, 2019

The Neuroscience of Autism: New Clues for How Condition Begins

Research has shown that a gene that helps during the formation of the brain is mutated in some individuals with autism. Unfortunately, autism is not an uncommon disease, as it affects 1 in 59 children born. Previously, autism was a very unknown disease as it appears due to several mutations but with this new research, scientists learned that “that ASD can be caused by disruptions occurring very early on, when the cerebral cortex is just beginning to construct itself.” This is an extremely important area of the brain and if doctors could determine a way to pinpoint the disrupted areas, there is potential for a treatment for ASD. The Cerebral cortex deals with speech, perception, long term memory, and higher brain functions. When this interference takes place, the brain now struggles to do all of the things the cerebral cortex is responsible for.

It is understood that in an embryo, radial glial cells (RGC) appear at the bottom of the cortex and align in a pattern. From each RGC comes a basal process that reaches the top of the cortex. All together, these parts form the basis of the brain and could be considered the scaffolding. The neurons are able to use the basal processes to move up through the cortex. In a normal individual, the scaffolding produces a six layer neuron structure that operates the cerebral cortex. 

Researchers determined that a gene coding for Memo1 is what sets up the pattern of the original RGCs. In some people with autism, this is the gene that is mutated. In order to acquire more evidence for this theory, scientists at the UNC Medical School removed the gene that encodes for Memo1 during early brain development in mice. This resulted in a scaffolding structure that was completely disrupted. A normal structure is perfectly layered with basal processes in a specific array. In the mice with the removed gene, the structure was a mess and the basal processes formed many more branches. Overall, this results in neurons not have a proper pathway through the cortex. 

Similarly, the neural development in the cerebral cortex in children with autism was very closely related to the one seen in mice. And after watching the behavior of the mice, it was noted that they were extremely abnormal. 

From this research, the origin of autism can be further analyzed as this gives important information that could lead to removing autism. I think this research is major in terms of understanding autism and why it occurs in certain individuals and not others. From this, much more research along with new theories could be proposed and play a huge role in finding more unknown information regarding autism.

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