Foundation Grantees Develop Brain Atlas to Aid Understanding of Autism, Schizophrenia

John L. R. Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D., Brain Researcher, expert in schizophrenia and autism
John Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D.

Collaborating researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed an atlas of the brain’s “gene enhancers” (or regulators) in the cerebrum and made it publicly-accessible as a Web-based collection of data. Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Grantees Olga Golonzhka, Ph.D. (2010 NARSAD Young Investigator Grantee) and John L. R. Rubenstein, M.D., Ph.D. (1997 NARSAD Distinguished Investigator) worked on the project. The results of the work were published Jan. 31 in Cell.

This first-of-its-kind mapping of gene enhancers is expected to offer researchers a "molecular toolbox" to gain new insights into how the brain develops and how the human brain has evolved. The cerebrum is the most highly developed region of the human brain, critical for cognition, motor functions and emotion. From earlier research, many of the genes involved in development of the cerebrum had been identified, but not much was known about the mechanisms that play a role in their expression, including these enhancers that switch genes on and off in both near and distant parts of the brain.

The new atlas will enable scientists to study in more detail how individual genes are regulated during development of the brain, and how genetic mutations may impact brain and behavior disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Read the full announcement in ScienceDaily

Read the abstract in Cell