For the first time, scientists including Michael R. Johnson and his associates were able to identify gene clusters M1 and M3 that they believe have the power to influence cognitive functions, such as memory, attention, processing speed, and reasoning. As a part of their study, the researchers examined the brains of epileptic patients that had recently undergone neurosurgery and analyzed thousands of genes expressed in their brains. With the information they obtained from their observations, the researchers tried to find a correlation between their findings and the IQ scores of both healthy people and those who had neurodevelopmental disorders resulting in more intellectually challenged individuals.
Image Source: Steven Hunt
The researchers were able to identify genes in the human brain that worked in tandem to develop memory and make rational decisions. They first compared genome-wide gene expression among different species of animals and brain regions in order to identify highly conserved gene clusters. From this, they found an association between gene clusters M1 and M3 and healthy cognition that the researchers had previously evaluated through IQ testing. Their investigation led them to discover that mutations in genes influencing human intelligence in healthy people, particularly in M3, were the root of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
Because they have now identified gene clusters in the brain that are associated with neurological development and intelligence, the researchers are confident that their new-found information may help improve treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders. They hypothesize that master switches, genes that regulate other gene expression, may be at work with both M1 and M3. If this is indeed true, and these master switches can be identified, the researchers believe that they will be able to manipulate these master switches in order to reverse the effect of M1 and M3 mutations that cause neurological disabilities.
Feature Image Source: Brains! by Hey Paul Studios