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Genes linked to autism may play a role in uncontrollable eye movements

Studies in zebrafish have revealed that genes linked to developmental brain abnormalities may be influential in eye movement disorders

New research has highlighted a connection between genes linked to autism and eye movement disorders.

Scientists observed eye development in zebrafish; a fish that shares similarities in brain development and genes with humans.

Writing in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers describe how they tracked the eye movements of larval zebrafish and observed eye movement deficits in zebrafish with genetic mutations.  

Fish lacking the gene, dscaml1, experienced rapid eye movement fatigue, impaired visual fixation and were unable to perform saccades.

In humans, loss of the dscaml1 gene is linked to autism spectrum disorder and malformations of the cortex of the brain.

Albert Pan, from the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, highlighted that many behavioural problems are characterised by abnormal eye movements and how people perceive faces and emotions.

“With a simple organism like zebrafish and a relatively simple neural circuit that generates and controls eye movements, we can figure out how genes affect development,” he said.

Image credit: Pixabay/sbtlneet