Movements show genetics play a role in autism

geneticsBloomington, Ind. — Researchers continue to identify how gnetics play a role in children’s autism. A research funded by the National Science Foundation Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation examined minute movements of children on the autism spectrum through high-sensitivity movement sensors attached to their arms, and found that some of the children shared the same unusual ‘spikes’ in their movements with their parents.

The Vice President for research at Indiana University, Jorge V. José, Ph.D., told:

“We also have determined that a pattern exists in the movement variations in some cases between children with autism and their parents, leading us to surmise that genetics plays a role in movement patterns.”

The researchers were also able to associate variation in the children’s movement to the severity of their autism spectrum disorder. According to José,

“This is the first time we have been able to explicitly characterize subtypes of severity in autism spectrum disorder.”

The participants were asked to touch a spot on a touch screen monitor which consecutively moved for about a hundred times. The researchers recorded local ‘spikes’ in the participants’ speed, which they regarded as ‘noises’. The scientists were able to record 240 movements per second for 30 of the individuals with autism, 21 parents of children with autism, and eight healthy adults.

Di Wu, a graduate student in Dr. José’s laboratory who helped in analyzing the data gathered, told:

“In healthy adults, the minute fluctuations in the speed of their movements, which we call peripheral spikes or p-spikes, normally occur at the onset or at the end of the arm extension exercise. People with autism are known to have problems with sensing their body motions and of their body in general. Our earlier research proved that the random patterns of their speed were significant. What we did not expect was to find random, minute speed fluctuations during the intentional action itself, much less identify this form of intentional tremor in some of their parents.”

Wu added,

“This finding suggests that genetics may play a role in p-spike patterns. We will need to further explore this result in other populations with neurodevelopmental disorders of known genetic origins and their family to better understand the surprising findings.”

The original article on the Medical XPress website can be read here

Contributed by Althea Estrella Violeta