Sure, we have heard tons and tons of different things about what may or may not be causing autism, but this new study seems to have a good idea. Could our brain connections be to blame?

This study comes from researchers from Washington University and was published in the journal Nature Communications. It links a defective gene to autism and how it influences the way that neurons connect and communicate with one another in the brain. These researchers found that rodents who lack this gene form too many connections between brain neurons and struggle with learning.

Senior author Azad Bonni, the Edison Professor of Neuroscience and head of the Department of Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said in a statement:

“This study raises the possibility that there may be too many synapses in the brains of patients with autism.”

“You might think that having more synapses would make the brain work better, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. An increased number of synapses creates miscommunication among neurons in the developing brain that correlates with impairments in learning, although we don’t know how.”

Patients with autism may be carrying a gene mutation that prevents one of their ubiquitin genes from working as it should. Ubiquitin ligases function like a working order and tell the rest of the cell what to do with the tagged proteins. To understand the role of these genes in brain development this team removed the gene from young mice.

In the mice that this gene had been removed from learning was an issue especially with motor skills. They were able to walk and appear coordinated until it came time to put them to the test. While more research still needs to be done this is a very interesting find.

Bonni also said as follows:

“It’s possible that excessive connections between neurons contribute to autism.”

“More work needs to be done to verify this hypothesis in people, but if that turns out to be true, then you can start looking at ways of controlling the number of synapses. It could potentially benefit not just the people who have these rare mutations in ubiquitin genes but other patients with autism.”

What do you think about all of this? I for one am excited to see what comes of this. This is not something unheard of, even in 2014, children with autism were found to have extra synapses.

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