Is Autism the Result of Power Failure?

Dov Michaeli

First published 6/8/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

By Dov Michaeli

In a post on 6/6/11 (What’s going on in the autistic brain?) I described the surprising discovery that gene expression in the frontal lobe of autistic brain was indistinguishable from that of the temporal lobe; in the normal brain they differ markedly. This difference develops in the embryo during development of the brain. So the lack of difference signifies some failure of neurological development in utero. Autism Spectrum Disorder most likely has multiple causes, genetic as well as environmental. It is remarkable therefore, that all those diverse causes end up with the same neurobiological deficiency. One possible explanation could be that whatever the etiology (cause) of the disease, something very basic goes awry as a result – as basic as the supply of energy to the developing brain. After all, everything in the body requires a fuel supply, including the processes responsible for differentiation from a neuronal stem cell to specialized frontal cortex or temporal cortex neurons.

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What’s Going On in the Autistic Brain?

Dov Michaeli

First published 6/06/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

If I had to choose the area of medicine most difficult to unravel it would be psychiatric disease, and specifically schizophrenia and Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. The difficulties are enormous; the causes can be environmental, genetic, or both: the diseases are multi genetic; the affected organ, the brain, is extraordinarily complex and largely unknown, and the psychiatric manifestations can range from barely noticeable to overwhelmingly disabling. Unless we understand these diseases on the molecular level therapy will be a hit and miss affair.

A paper in Nature magazine (26 May 2011) made a significant advance in understanding Autism. Daniel Geschwind of UCLA and post doctoral fellow Irina Voineagu, and their colleagues, asked a seemingly simple question: are the genes in the autistic brain expressed differently from those of a normal brain?

Continue reading “What’s Going On in the Autistic Brain?”