Brain Canada Brain Canada
FR Donate

Correction of Neuronal Function in Autism

Principal Investigator:
  • Laurie Doering, McMaster University
Team Members:
  • Min Zhuo, University of Toronto
  • Ali Pejmun Haghighi, McGill University
  • David Nelson, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Azrieli Foundation
  • National Bank of Canada

Project Overview

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is rising dramatically on a yearly basis and new interventional strategies are required to treat ASDs and related disorders like Fragile X syndrome. Altered communication between brain cells may lead to the defects responsible for the features that characterize autism and other neurodevelopmental brain disorders. In the developing brain, a type of cell called the astrocyte is important for the proper growth and function of the brain. Astrocytes act as gatekeepers of healthy brain function by producing substances to ensure that the communication signals in the brain are normal. Astrocytes and the substances they make are affected in neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and in turn alter the brain functions that control learning, memory and behavior. Our research will use different biological and genetic techniques to correct the communication patterns in the brain. By altering the signaling or by applying substances from normal astrocytes to Fragile X brain cells, the interventions by the team will offset the development of abnormal communication in the brain. Most importantly, the results will help determine ways to counteract the consequences of intellectual and social disabilities associated with autism. This type of research will lead to new interventional treatment strategies for social disability disorders.