Autism Social Interaction Difficulties Caused by Poor Synapse Maturation

A significant debilitating factor for those afflicted with autism spectral disorders (ASD) is impairment of social communication. Now, a team of investigators from the Universities of Geneva (UNIGE) and Basel (UNIBAS), in Switzerland believe they have uncovered what happens in ASD patients' brains that disrupts their social skills. Findings from the new study—published today in Nature Communications through an article titled “ Role of VTA dopamine neurons and neuroligin 3 in sociability traits related to nonfamiliar conspecific interaction ”— establishes a link between a genetic mutation found in people who have ASD.

For mammals, the reward system is a fundamental brain circuit that reinforces certain behaviors by providing the motivation necessary for their achievement. Searching for food, learning, or emotional behaviors are for instance, strongly linked to this neural pathway. Recently, several studies have shown that dysfunction of this system could be at the root of the alteration ...