Science Daily reports on new research from MIT researchers into the causes of autism:
“Our work points to how a disorder can be genetic and yet be dependent on the environment,” said co-author Mriganka Sur, Sherman Fairchild Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute and chair of MIT’s brain and cognitive sciences department. “Many genes require activity to be expressed and make their assigned proteins. They alter their expression when activity is altered. Thus, we reveal an important mechanism of brain development that should open up a window into the mechanisms and treatment of brain disorders such as autism.”
In the brain, some genes are only expressed, or turned on, in response to stimulus from the outside world. Like a panel of switches that turn lights on and off, genes that don’t receive electricity don’t “turn on” and express their particular proteins.