Research Topic

New mechanisms and therapeutics in neurodevelopmental disorders

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Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are severe, heritable conditions characterized by impaired brain development and disability in cognition, social interaction and behavior. Genetic predisposition appears to interact with environmental factors to produce the onset of the disease. In the last decade genomic ...

Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) are severe, heritable conditions characterized by impaired brain development and disability in cognition, social interaction and behavior. Genetic predisposition appears to interact with environmental factors to produce the onset of the disease. In the last decade genomic analysis on NDDs advanced the knowledge of the genetic causes of these disorders: most of the genes identified were not predicted from known biology, and almost all of them engage in neurodevelopmental processes.
However, the same studies revealed an unexpected outcome regarding the molecular etiology: many of the same susceptibility genes as well as molecular pathways are emerging across hitherto unrelated disorders- such as autism and schizophrenia- challenging how we conceptualize these conditions.

These new discoveries call for the establishment of additional criteria for the classification of the genes and related phenotypes. Beyond the classical distinction according to diagnostic criteria, new parameters should be taken into account: the genetics, the neurobiology of the gene products and the molecular mechanisms that they control. Our broad understanding of NDDs, requires a combination of approaches, including human studies, animal models and theoretical computation. Indeed, progress in technology and the generation of accurate models are advancing the field, and the research is rapidly growing.

This Research Topic presents recent advances in neurodevelopmental disorders from genes to systems, in single conditions and across different phenotypes, and report the newest treatments in use. Recognized experts in the field discuss recent findings in molecular studies, in vivo imaging, neuropsychology, neuropharmacology and computational neuroscience. This multidisciplinary approach enriches our understanding of the mechanisms involved in the onset and progression of NDDs with the perspective of revealing the biological signs of the disorders and identifying new therapeutics.

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