Research from the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University has linked increased paternal age with a greater risk of psychiatric and developmental disorders- mainly schizophrenia and autism.
The study tested mice- old mice and young mice- and found that the offspring of the older mice displayed less exploratory activity and differed in how they responded to their environment.
This study suggests that the older a father is, the higher the frequency is of a potential mutation in a genetic code. Maria Milekic, Ph.D., told the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting this week that a decrease in DNA methylation could be the cause.
The researchers are not only focusing on what mutations are caused by paternal age, but also how these mutations are expressed.
“We were interested in understanding the mechanism of the paternal age effect”, said Dr. Milekic. “The risk for schizophrenia increases 2-fold when a father is over 45 years of age, and the risk for autism increases 2-5-fold. It seemed unlikely that mutation alone could account for this.”
Dr. Milekic says the “expression of these genes” are also being examined, as they are known to determine brain development and functionality.
Ultimately, this research will be used to determine factors that lead to autism spectrum disorder in order to implicate more effective forms of therapy.
For more information on the possible causes of autism, read here: http://www.icare4autism.org/what-is-autism/causes/