Researchers study Mohawk mice with genetic mutation linked to autism.

NYU Langone Medical Center – Researchers have been studying mice with a genetic mutation linked to autism. They found that the mice began to sport Mohawks that resulted from their “over-grooming” behavior.

The behavior of the mice resembles repetitive motions displayed by some people with autism, and researchers say their experiments reveal a link between the genetic causes of autism and effects on the brain.

Study researcher Gordon Fishell, a neuroscientist at NYU Langone Medical Center, said:

“Our study tells us that to design better tools for treating a disease like autism, you have to get to the underlying genetic roots of its dysfunctional behaviors, whether it is over-grooming in mice or repetitive motor behaviors in humans,”

Researchers bred mice that lacked a gene for a protein called Cntnap4, this is found in brain cells called interneurons.

Low levels of this protein lead to abnormal release of dopamine and GABA. Dopamine is involved in sensations of pleasure; GABA dampens neural activity and regulates muscle tone.

Mice that lacked the gene for this brain protein were found to obsessively groom their fellow animals’ fur, hence the Mohawk. This suggests a link between genetics, brain function and autistic behaviors.

Gordon Fishell said:

“Our research suggests that reversing the disease’s effects in signaling pathways like GABA and dopamine are potential treatment options,”

The study has been published in the journal, Nature.

The original article by Tanya Lewison the Yahoo News website can be found here