Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Columbia researcher identifies cellular defect that may contribute to autism


Defect in neuroligin gene disrupts firing of neurons and may result in autism

The causes of autism have long remained a mystery, but new research from Columbia University Medical Center has identified, for the first time, how a cellular defect may be involved in the often crippling neurological disorder.

The research, which is published in today’s issue of Science, examines how a defect in neuroligin genes may contribute to autism. Neuroligins are components of synapses, which connect individual neurons in the brain. The researchers found that the loss of neuroligins perturbs the formation of neuronal connections and results in an imbalance of neuronal function. This imbalance provides an explanation for the neurodevelopmental defects in autistic children.

"Understanding the cellular defects that may underlie autism-spectrum disorders represents an important step towards the goal of providing therapies," said Peter Scheiffele, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, and principal investigator on the study.

A defect in the neuroligin genes had previously been observed in autistic patients, but its functional significance was not yet understood. Scheiffele’s study showed that in rat neurons without any neuroligin, connections between neurons are altered in a way that is strikingly similar to those found in autistic children.

Each neuron in the brain receives many different inputs – some are excitatory and signal the neuron to fire, and some are inhibitory and signal the neuron to stop firing. Scheiffele’s research team found that neuroligin genes are responsible for regulating the balance between excitatory and inhibitory synaptic function. A defect in neuroligin leads to a selective loss in inhibitory function and thereby impairs the fine-tuning of neuronal connectivity, a neurological problem that is understood to play a role in autism.

"There is much we still don’t know about how neurons connect to each other, but our findings have provided unique insights into what may be going wrong on a cellular level in autistic patients," said Dr. Scheiffele.

Craig LeMoult | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht When fat cells change their colour
28.10.2016 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen 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 light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

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

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>