Picture of Dopamine neurons involved in Social interaction. Credit: UNIGE
Poor maturation of synapses responsible for poor social interactions in autism - science news in short

One of the hallmark symptoms of autism is a deficit in social interactions. A new study from the Universities of Geneva and Basel revealed some of the neural mechanism that could explain how this happens. A malfunction of the synaptic activity of the neurons present in the reward system seems to be important. To understand this, scientists studied mice in whom a gene called “Neuroligin 3” was suppressed or whose activity in dopaminergic neurons had been greatly reduced, in order to imitate a mutation identified in autistic people. Unlike their counterparts, these mice had a lack of interest in novelty and less motivation to interact socially, behavioral traits frequently found in some autistic individuals. The study is taking one step further in the understanding of a disorder that affects more than one child in 200 today.

Read the full story: University of Geneva
Scientific publication: Nature Communications