One important aspect of this finding is that it explains the origins of nonsyndromic mental retardation, Michaud said. "For a lot of families, not having an explanation makes it difficult to accept the condition. Having an explanation helps them to better accept the condition," he said.
The finding should also reassure parents that the condition isn't inherited, he said.
Michaud thinks the finding may lead to the development of new methods to teach children with nonsyndromic mental retardation. And a long-term goal is to develop medications that would help these children, in much the same way that ADHD can be treated with drugs, he said.
Dr. Randi Hagerman, a professor of pediatrics and medical director of the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California, Davis, thinks the finding is important, because it could lead to better diagnosis and possibly treatment of the condition.
"This is an important paper, because it represents about 3 percent of nonsyndromic mental retardation," Hagerman said. "This suggests that more screening for this mutation should be done in the workup of patients," he said.
To learn more about mental retardation, visit the Nemours Foundation.
SOURCES: Jacques L. Michaud, M.D., Center of Excellence in Neuromics, University of Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Randi Hagerman, M.D., professor of pediatrics, and medical director, M.I.N.D. Institute, University of California, Davis; Feb. 5, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine
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