Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Salk News: Social behavior genes

21.08.2003


Are there ’social behavior’ genes?



A rare genetic disorder may lead scientists to genes for social behavior, a Salk Institute study has found.

The study zeros in on the genes that may lead to the marked extroverted behavior seen in children with Williams syndrome, demonstrating that "hyper-sociability" – especially the drive to greet and interact with strangers -- follows a unique developmental path.


The path is not only different from typical children but also from children with other developmental disorders of the nervous system. The study appears in the online version of the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

Teresa Doyle and Ursula Bellugi of the Salk Institute, along with Julie Korenberg and John Graham of UCLA and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, found that children with Williams syndrome scored significantly higher on tests measuring behavior in social situations, including their ability to remember names and faces, eagerness to please others, empathy with others’ emotions and tendency to approach strangers.

The authors also performed genetic screening on a young girl to look for genetic underpinnings of this pronounced social behavior.

"We’ve known for many years that children with Williams syndrome are markedly more social than other children, in spite of the moderate mental retardation and physical problems that also are associated with the disorder," said Doyle. "Here we not only have shown hyper-social behavior as a hallmark symptom that follows a characteristic developmental course in Williams syndrome, but we may be closer to identifying the genes involved in regulating that behavior."

Williams syndrome is rare, occurring in only one in every 20,000 people. It arises from the deletion of no more than 20 genes from one chromosome of the seventh chromosome pair.

Virtually everyone with Williams syndrome has exactly the same set of genes missing. People with the disorder have characteristic facial and physical features, certain cardiovascular problems and mild to moderate mental retardation.

However, in addition to their very extroverted natures, as adults Williams patients also possess unusually adept language skills given their level of general cognitive abilities. Bellugi and her laboratory have been studying the syndrome for years in an effort to understand how language is processed in the brain and what genes may be involved.

Very rarely, an individual with Williams syndrome has a slightly smaller or larger gene deletion than is typical for the syndrome. The researchers analyzed the genetic deletion of a two-year-old girl with Williams syndrome who did not exhibit this especially outgoing behavior.

She was shy around strangers, and scored significantly lower on sociability measures, much more resembling 2-year-old children without Williams syndrome. It was found that this girl retained at least one gene that most people with the disorder have missing. This indicated that the gene (or genes) she retained might be altering the hyper-sociability usually observed among children with Williams syndrome.

"We don’t know at this point whether these genes are involved in regulating social behavior in the general population, or whether their involvement is specific to Williams syndrome," said Bellugi. "We will need to conduct tests in more patients who do not have all the gene deletions seen in typical Williams syndrome, and compare and contrast genetics and behavior."


The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the James S. McDonnell Foundation, the Oak Tree Philanthropic Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, located in La Jolla, Calif., is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to fundamental discoveries in the life sciences, the improvement of human health and conditions, and the training of future generations of researchers. Jonas Salk, M.D., founded the institute in 1960 with a gift of land from the City of San Diego and the financial support of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.

Andrew Porterfield | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.salk.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Ambush in a petri dish
24.11.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena

nachricht Meadows beat out shrubs when it comes to storing carbon
23.11.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New proton record: Researchers measure magnetic moment with greatest possible precision

High-precision measurement of the g-factor eleven times more precise than before / Results indicate a strong similarity between protons and antiprotons

The magnetic moment of an individual proton is inconceivably small, but can still be quantified. The basis for undertaking this measurement was laid over ten...

Im Focus: Frictional Heat Powers Hydrothermal Activity on Enceladus

Computer simulation shows how the icy moon heats water in a porous rock core

Heat from the friction of rocks caused by tidal forces could be the “engine” for the hydrothermal activity on Saturn's moon Enceladus. This presupposes that...

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

IceCube experiment finds Earth can block high-energy particles from nuclear reactions

24.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 'half-hearted' solution to one-sided heart failure

24.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

Heidelberg Researchers Study Unique Underwater Stalactites

24.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>