The possible reason autistic kids don’t want hugs

A recent study at the University of Edinburgh has found a possible link between fragile X syndrome and the occurrence of autism.

The syndrome results from the interference of a mutant gene in the X chromosome that retards the building of synapses in the brain.

Fragile X syndrome is more common in males, since they have only one X chromosome.

Researchers studied specially bred mice by recording electrical signals in their brains, and concluded that some connections in the cortex were late in developing.  This delay may in turn cause further problems with the ‘wiring’ of brain synapses, leading to the condition known as autism.

In addition to other symptoms of autism such as behavioural problems and lowered mental capabilities, the lack of optimum performance by the X chromosome appears to cause “tactile defensiveness”.  This term is used to describe the tendency to avoid making physical or visual contact; people with autism generally don’t like to be hugged.

The study also discovered that the changes in normal development of brain synapses begin much sooner than previously thought, in fact in early or middle stages of the development of a foetus in the womb.  Therefore the intervention or possible treatment of autism could begin earlier and perhaps with greater effectiveness.

Though this is only one piece of the whole puzzle, fragile X syndrome has been established as one of the leading causes of autism, and new understanding of its causes and effects may lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

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