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Aug 27, 2021

Visual response shows promise as biomarker in autism-linked condition

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics, neuroscience

Because the brain responses in children with different forms of autism overlapped, future therapies that are effective for Phelan-McDermid syndrome could potentially help other autistic children with similar neural patterns, Siper says.


Brain responses to visual stimuli are smaller and weaker in children with Phelan-McDermid syndrome, an autism-linked genetic condition, than in non-autistic children, according to a new study. The difference in response is greater in children with larger genetic mutations.

Mutations or deletions in SHANK3, one of the genes most strongly linked to autism, cause Phelan-McDermid syndrome. More than 80 percent of people with the condition have autism; they also often have intellectual disability, developmental delays and other medical issues, though these traits and their severity can vary widely.

The new study is the first to use electroencephalography (EEG) to measure visual evoked potentials — brain responses that occur shortly after a person views a visual stimulus — in people with Phelan-McDermid syndrome. The team previously identified differences in these responses in people with ‘idiopathic’ autism, or autism with no known genetic cause. Other researchers have linked atypical visual evoked potentials to other single-gene causes of autism, such as Rett syndrome.

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