Mice Provide Insight Into Genetics of Autism Spectrum Disorders

In this mouse cortex, a mutation in the CHD8 gene caused increased brain size, or megalencephaly, a condition also present in people with autism spectrum disorder. The colored sections correspond to different layers of the developing cortex. Alex Nord/UC Davis

While the definitive causes remain unclear, several genetic and environmental factors increase the likelihood of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, a group of conditions covering a “spectrum” of symptoms, skills and levels of disability.

Taking advantage of advances in genetic technologies, researchers led by Alex Nord, assistant professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior with the Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, are gaining a better understanding of the role played by a specific gene involved in autism. The collaborative work appears June 26 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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