News Stories

Gene Clash

Researchers think that brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia are the result of a clash of incompatible genes between the mother and the father.

In the November 11th edition of the New York Times, Benedict Carey reports that the unlikely team of a biologist?Bernard Crespi?and a sociologist?Christopher Badcock?have worked together to come up with the surprising theory that "an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father?s sperm and the mother?s egg can?tip brain development in one of two ways. A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others'. This?increases a child?s risk of developing schizophrenia later on, as well as mood problems like bipolar disorder and depression. In short: autism and schizophrenia represent opposite ends of a spectrum that includes most, if not all, psychiatric and developmental brain disorders."

According to Carey, it was Badcock, the sociologist, who noticed that some problems associated with autism, like a failure to meet another?s gaze, are the opposite of those in people with schizophrenia, who often believe they are being watched and have delusions of grandeur.

Autism is a mystery that's somehow connected to rain. Scientists have identified a relationship between two proteins in the brain that has links to both nicotine addiction and autism. The finding has led to speculation that existing drugs used to curb nicotine addiction might serve as the basis for potential therapies to alleviate the symptoms of autism.Previous research has shown that people with autism have a shortage of these nicotinic receptors in their brains.

Meanwhile, scientists also know that people who are addicted to nicotine have too many of these receptors in their brains.Researcher Rne Anand says, "If we were to use drugs that mimic the actions of nicotine at an early time in human brain development, would we begin to help those and other circuits develop properly and thus significantly mitigate the deficits in autism?" We could do this if we could identify parents whose genes might clash and cause this condition.

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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