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UCI scientists to study brain region linked to autism, schizophrenia

Irvine, Calif., March 3, 2009 UC Irvine neuroscientists have received $2 million to study a brain region associated with language abilities. Study findings could lead to clinical research and treatment of developmental and psychiatric disorders from schizophrenia to autism.

UCI scientists hope to gain a greater understanding of the overall function of the planum temporale, located within the auditory cortex.

"We still don't know how all of the observations about the planum temporale fit together," said Gregory Hickok, cognitive sciences professor. "Are there any connections, any common denominators, among the wide range of abilities and disorders linked to this brain region? We think there are, and that is what we are working to figure out."

In the human brain, the planum temporale is found in both left and right hemispheres. Studies have shown that professional musicians with perfect pitch have an asymmetric left planum temporale. Schizophrenia has been associated with an enlarged right planum temporale, while a lack of normal asymmetry in both hemispheres has been found in people with autism.

UCI researchers plan to map the planum temporale's functional organization. Using specialized MRI technology, they will observe the brain activity of subjects performing tasks that involve auditory and motor skills.

Hickok and Kourosh Saberi, cognitive sciences professor, received their five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Contact: Laura Rico
University of California - Irvine

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