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Study of Williams syndrome patients reveals specific gene's role in intelligence
Date:4/22/2010

SALT LAKE CITY, UT April 21, 2010 Although genetics is the most significant known determinant of human intelligence, how specific genes affect intelligence remains largely unknown. A multi-institution team led by a University of Utah (U of U) USTAR researcher has found that the brain gene STX1A plays a significant role in the level of intelligence displayed by patients with Williams Syndrome (WS). The study may have implications for the understanding of intelligence and treatment of neurological disease in the general population.

Researchers at UCLA, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Salk Institute, and the U of U found that variations in the expression of STX1A could account for 15.6 percent of cognitive variation in a group of 65 WS patients, a very high level of confidence in comparison to prior genetic studies. STX1A is involved in the electrochemical processes that occur at the brain's synapses.

The research team is under the direction of Julie R. Korenberg, Ph.D., M.D., Brain Institute USTAR investigator and professor of pediatrics at the U of U School of Medicine. The team published the study on April 21, 2010 in the open access / online scientific jounal PLoS ONE.

The study describes a new approach in determining the relationship between gene expression and intelligence in patients with WS, a neurodevelopmental disorder caused by the deletion of only two dozen genes from chromosome 7, a tiny fraction of the almost 30,000 genes found in humans. WS patients have one less copy each of the genes in question than does the general population.

WS patients typically exhibit an IQ of 60, compared to an average of 100 for the general population. WS patients tend to be highly verbal and social, but have difficulty with numbers, visual-spatial perception and memory.

"Williams Syndrome patients are missing a very, very small amount of genetic material," said Korenberg. "In almost all other respects, their make-up is
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Contact: Jason Youngstrom
jason.youngstrom@utah.edu
801-587-1201
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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