Autism has previously been linked to the increased number of synapses in the brain (the connections between the brain cells). This has been attributed to the brain’s inability to sufficiently prune its synapses, resulting in an excess of them.
However, a new study coming from a team of neurobiologists in Dartmouth, suggests that it is actually the brain producing too many synapses, rather than failing to adequately prune them.
They have linked this excessive production of synapses to a mutation in the gene names Pten, which results in the altered brain development that could be linked to the sensory sensitivity often experienced by those on the ASD spectrum.
Their findings have been published in The Journal of Neuroscience this week, and you can read more here.
Reference: Michael R. Williams, Tyrone DeSpenza Jr, Meijie Li, Allan T. Gulledge, and Bryan W. Luikart. Hyperactivity of Newborn Pten Knock-out Neurons Results from Increased Excitatory Synaptic Drive. The Journal of Neuroscience. 21 January 2015, 35(3): 943-959.