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Autism risk gene may be behind differences in brain structure

Washington, Thu, 22 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 22 (ANI): Healthy individuals, who carry a gene variation associated with an increased risk of autism, have structural differences in their brains, researchers say.

This may help explain how the gene affects brain function and increases vulnerability for autism.

"This is one of the first papers demonstrating a linkage between a particular gene variant and changes in brain structure and connectivity in carriers of that gene," said Christopher Pawela, PhD, Co-Editor-in-Chief and Assistant Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin.

"This work could lead to the creation of an exciting new line of research investigating the impact of genetics on communication between brain regions."

Although carriers of the common gene variant CNTNAP2-identified as an autism risk gene-may not develop autism, there is evidence of differences in brain structure that may affect connections and signalling between brain regions.

These disruptions in brain connectivity can give rise to functional abnormalities characteristic of neuropsychological disorders such as autism.

The study has been published in the neuroscience journal Brain Connectivity. (ANI)

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