Exploring how genes and the environment interact in autism/fragile X.
At the Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Laboratory at Northwestern University, we are a team of researchers studying language and other abilities affected by autism, fragile X, and related conditions, as well as the connections with genes and environmental factors that influence these conditions.
While many genes are known to contribute to autism, we also know that environmental influences can interact with underlying genetic influences, and are just as essential to understand. These gene-environment interactions are important to understand in fragile X, as well; individuals with the same genetic mutation can show very different developmental patterns, suggesting influences beyond the FMR1 gene. Our lab is working to understand this variability, and how the FMR1 gene might interact with other risk genes and environmental factors to shape development.
Findings from our lab have helped identify key mechanisms that might contribute to the social-communicative challenges in autism and fragile X. These discoveries help bridge gaps between observable behaviors and underlying biology – a critical step toward understanding the causes of autism, fragile X, and related conditions.