While researchers have long known the genetic defect underlying Fragile X syndrome, they are still tracing how that defect creates the complex mix of mental retardation, hyperactive behavior, attention deficits, and other problems in the disorder. Fragile X is particularly important because it is the most common single-gene cause of mental retardation--affecting about 1 in 4000 males and 1 in 8000 females in the U.S.
In an article in the August 4, 2005, issue of Neuron, researchers led by Chris De Zeeuw of Erasmus University Rotterdam report that they have pinpointed a specific cause of defects in motor learning in Fragile X patients. Their work represents the first investigation of the role of abnormalities in the brains cerebellum in Fragile X syndrome.
Fragile X syndrome is caused by a defect in the Fragile X mental retardation 1 (Fmr1) gene, which in turns produces a nonfunctioning protein, FMRP. In their studies, De Zeeuw and colleagues studied the behavioral effects on motor learning and the effects on neurons in the cerebellum of knocking out this gene.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
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