Fragile X study hints at causes of autism

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A new study has revealed how abnormalities in brain development may lead to autism and behavioural disorders. Researchers at Edinburgh University studying Fragile X syndrome, a genetic condition that is the leading known cause of autism, have found that “critical phases in the brain’s development may be mistimed in people with the condition”.This, it is believed, could result in “inappropriate communication between brain cells” which, in turn, could lead to the symptoms experienced by people with Fragile X, such as extreme sensitivity to sound and touch, anxiety, hyperactivity and social withdrawal.

The researchers looked at how the brains of those affected by Fragile X differ from those of people without the condition. They concluded that “the changes in the brain’s connections occur much earlier than previously thought, midway through a baby’s development in the womb.” The study also suggested that there are key windows of opportunity when treatments for Fragile X and autism might be most effective.

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