Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have recently generated a high-resolution blueprint for how to build a human brain. Encompassed is a detailed map of various genes which are turned on and off during pregnancy. The data that was collected from this BrainSpan Atlas provides exceptional insight into the origins of human uniqueness, as well as the origin of Autism disorders, which are linked to early brain development.
The human brain is one of the most complex things to study, yet its basic structure is created within just nine months. This comprehensive map will enable researchers to have a better grasp of disorders and behavior problems that appear before birth, even if they don’t manifest until the individual is in their teens or 20s.
Ed Lein, Investigator at the Allen Institute, states, “Knowing where a gene is expressed in the brain can provide powerful clues about what its role is.” He continues, “[this] gives a comprehensive view of which genes are on and off while the brain is developing during pregnancy.” Essentially, this blueprint will give a better understanding of human development, and to understand the pieces necessary for the brain to form properly. It also investigates what may go wrong to lead to disorders.
Although all developmental disorders can benefit from increased knowledge of how genes are expressed in the developing brain, researchers have focused on Autism, as scientists believe it forms in early brain development. According to Ed Lein, “We used the maps we created to find a hub of genetic action that could be linked to Autism, and we found one.” He continues, “These genes were associated with the newly generated excitatory neurons in the cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for many of the cognitive features affected in Autism, such as social behaviors.” This discovery is an exciting example of the capabilities of the BrainSpan Atlas to provide insight about Autism and other developmental disorders in the brain.
Dr. Eric Hollander, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Chairman of the ICare4Autism Advisory Board, has focused on breaking autism down into the different core and associated symptom domains and finding relevant genes, understanding the specific brain circuits, and developing specific treatments for each of the different symptom domains. In order to treat Autism, Dr. Hollander states that there must be early intervention. With the BrainSpan Atlas, researchers will have the ability to gain a better understanding of when and where disorders may originate. This can potentially lead to earlier treatments for many children with signs of ASD.
The ICare4Autism International Conference will take place on June 30th to July 2nd in NYC. One of the days will focus on significant medical studies and research findings for Autism Disorders. Speakers include Dr. Hollander, who will be discussing recent advances in Autism research, as well as lead a question and answer session. To hear Dr. Hollander speak, please select tickets here.
As Autism Awareness Month continues, ICare4Autism will be sharing more of the cutting-edge ways that scientists and researchers are studying Autism disorders. We will also be highlighting several self-advocates and stories of hope. We hope that you will share these stories, and use the month of April to spread awareness about Autism! Please make a difference and donate today!