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The Brain

Charting the structure and function of the brain’s many circuits may unravel autism’s mysteries.

August 2021
Micrograph showing highlighted genes related to autism in the thalamus.
News

Brain’s sensory processor may prompt memory problems in autism

by  /  19 August 2021

Mice with autism- or schizophrenia-linked mutations only in the anterodorsal thalamus have problems with long-term and working memory.

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Illustration of brain showing overexcited and underexcited parts of the brain represented by jagged and loose squiggles.
News

Disruptions to brain’s ‘thermostat’ may underpin autism traits

by  /  18 August 2021

Mounting evidence suggests that autism often involves upsets in homeostatic plasticity, a set of processes neurons use to stabilize their activity. These disruptions result from a range of autism-linked mutations and may help to explain the condition’s famed heterogeneity.

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News

Molecular overlap links tuberous sclerosis, fragile X

by  /  16 August 2021

Brain cells from the cerebellums of mice that model tuberous sclerosis show dampened levels of proteins controlled by FMRP, the protein missing in fragile X syndrome.

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Colorful illustration of child's brain with electrodes connected EEG wave patterns, DNA strand, and playing siblings.
Opinion / Viewpoint

Connecting autism-linked genetic variation to infant social behavior

by ,  /  10 August 2021

Integrating genetic analyses into studies of babies’ brain development could help us understand how autism-related genes contribute to autism traits.

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Image shows two young girls, identical twins, covering their faces with leaves while facing each other.
Opinion / Q&A

Q&A with John Constantino: Solving the biomarker conundrum

by  /  3 August 2021

Biological factors that reflect autism’s roots may differ from those that influence how severe the condition is. Failure to make a distinction has stymied the search for biomarkers.

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July 2021
News

Sleep problems in autism may stem from leaky brain barrier

by  /  23 July 2021

Problems with falling and staying asleep are common in autism, and they may be due in part to leaks in the blood-brain barrier, according to a new study in fruit flies.

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image shows slice of a mouse brain with genes highlighted
News / Toolbox

Method tracks neuron paths, gene expression simultaneously

by  /  21 July 2021

A new technique can reveal where thousands of neurons send their axons — and measure the cells’ RNA levels for dozens of genes at the same time — in the mouse brain. It could be used to profile neural circuits underlying autism.

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Illustration shows mouse with colorful wires attached, interacting with another mouse.
Opinion / Viewpoint

How to avoid common pitfalls when parsing circuit control of social behavior

by  /  20 July 2021

When probing the circuits underlying social behavior in animal models of autism, researchers should consider potentially confounding variables, use multiple behavioral assays and report results in a descriptive and unbiased manner.

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Micrographs comparing motor cortex neurons in mice with and without an extra copy of MECP2 gene.
News

Blocking key pathway reverses brain, behavior changes in autism mouse model

by  /  19 July 2021

Neurons in mice with an autism-linked mutation sprout extraneous protrusions, an overgrowth accompanied by above-average motor learning. Inhibiting a cell signaling pathway reverses the effect.

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Four brown lab mice in a cage, top-down view, with one mouse away from the group.
News

Autism-linked mutation may blur brain’s boundary between self, others

by  /  15 July 2021

A mutation in the autism-linked gene SHANK3 changes how neurons encode information about social agency in mice.

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