Psychiatric care of patients with Angelman syndrome has been given a boost by scientists in the US who have identified a gene that may be responsible for the mental illness.
The gene is UBE3A and, in a report published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers have found that it is an essential component in the formation of brain neurons that assist in the storing of sensory information.
Dr Michael Ehlers, Duke University professor of neurobiology and co-senior author of the study, commented: "We speculated that similar deficits may be happening in areas of the cortex that are important for language, cognition and emotion, all of which are quite abnormal in Angelman syndrome patients."
He added that by examining the behaviour of the visual cortex in mice by adjusting the sensory stimulus from light to dark, clues about the role of the specific gene would be uncovered.
Angelman syndrome is a form of developmental delay and also causes a range of symptoms usually found on the autism spectrum.