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 Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>