From Science Daily:

For the first time, a study has demonstrated a genetic convergence between cognition and neurodevelopmental disorders in the human brain. These findings, published online in Nature Neuroscience on Dec. 21, 2015 2015, provide an alternate starting point for scientists to develop therapies for such disorders.

A team of researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) and Imperial College London (ICL) identified a network of genes in the brain that regulates normal cognitive abilities. This network is also linked to a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, epilepsy, intellectual disability and schizophrenia. In many neurodevelopmental disorders, the impairment of cognitive abilities is reported to be a core clinical feature. However, no explanation had been provided for this association, until now.

The Duke-NUS and ICL team began their research by studying all genes that are active in the human hippocampus — a component of the brain that plays an important role in the formation and consolidation of our memories. They identified several gene networks and pinpointed a significant network of 150 genes, found in mice and healthy humans, which has a major influence on general cognitive abilities. In addition, they found that these genes are already highly active following birth, which is a clue that the genes play a role in brain development and neurodevelopmental disease.

Analysing all data available to date on the genes that cause neurodevelopmental disease, the team observed that about a third of the genes in the network are mutated in various neurodevelopmental disorders. These results were unforeseen,…

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