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Testing the effects of cortical disconnection in non-human primates  

Richard Krauzlis and his colleagues are exploring how abnormal patterns of brain wiring can lead to the behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders. These behaviors appear to result from an atypical visual alertness, such as noticing some stimuli but not others, and a different way of interpreting spatial information. These behaviors point to two particular regions of the brain known to control actions and attention to the surroundings, the frontal cortex and the parietal lobe, respectively. Krauzlis and colleagues plan to test this hypothesis by interrupting the circuits between the two regions using a new technique they call "selective disconnection." They plan to infect the neurons with a virus carrying the fruit fly allostatin receptor that is taken up by synapses and then transported backwards through the axons to the cell body. Injecting the virus in the frontal cortex would selectively infect neurons in the parietal cortex that project to the frontal cortex or vice versa. When the researchers then inject the receptor's ligand, allostatin, into the parietal cortex, the ligand would selectively inactivate the circuit connection from the parietal cortex to the frontal cortex. The researchers also plan to use classical techniques to non-selectively inactivate neurons locally in the brain. By associating specific lesions with autistic behaviors, the researchers hope to develop a functional map of the region that may indicate which particular pathways are involved in autism. The researchers also plan to evaluate how the autistic brain chooses what to pay attention to. For instance, given two objects, which does a person with autism follow and how does that decision vary when a reward is associated with one object or if the surrounding environment changes? Then, Krauzlis and his team hope to associate particular neural connections with those thought processes. This work could also offer new insights on the phenotypic diversity of the disorder. Krauzlis suggests that the distinct set of abilities and disabilities seen in different people with autism may arise from unique patterns of neuron projections in their brains. Project Status
ONGOING

2009

Funder Simons Foundation
Fiscal Year Funding $150,000.00
Project Number 95234
Principal Investigator Krauzlis, Richard
Received ARRA Funding? No
Strategic Plan Question Question 2: How Can I Understand What Is Happening? (Biology)
Strategic Plan Objective 2O. Not specific to Question 2 objectives
Federal or Private? Private
Institution The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
State/Country California
Web Link 1 Testing the effects of cortical disconnection in non-human primates (External web link)
Web Link 2 No URL available.
Web Link 3 No URL available.
New! History/Related Projects Testing the effects of cortical disconnection in non-human primates | $75,000.00 | 2010 | 95234
Testing the effects of cortical disconnection in non-human primates | $150,000.00 | 2008 | Project number unavailable