A collaboration among scientists in Belgium, the United States, Norway, France, and the UK has resulted in a study that sheds light on the neural mechanisms of fragile X syndrome. This genetic disorder, which affects males twice as often as females due to males’ single X chromosome, causes disruptions in the way neurons transmit information to each other. Led by one current and two former VIB scientists during their tenure at VIB, the multidisciplinary team used fruit fly models to demonstrate that the Fragile X mutation causes signals between neurons to be more widely spread, possibly leading to confusion in the perception and discrimination of information from the environment. The work was published online on March 30, 2017 in Current Biology. The open-access article is titled “Reduced Lateral Inhibition Impairs Olfactory Computations and Behaviors in a Drosophila Model of Fragile X Syndrome.” In normal brains, 20% of neurons are inhibitory, meaning that they send signals that limit communication between other neurons to make sure that signals exchanged within the brain are finely tuned and confined to specific areas, depending on what the person or animal is doing or perceiving. Fragile X syndrome, which is caused by a fault on the X chromosome, leads to defects in how brain neurons communicate with each other.
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