The complexity of the brain adds another level of difficulty to our understanding of how the brain develops, matures and functions. Both structural and molecular components define brain functional connectivity, and its alteration may result in developmental, behavioral and social deficits. Uncovering the roots and mechanisms behind neurodevelopmental disorders, such as fragile X syndrome or autism, is the goal of several lines of research. Despite the challenges associated with studying these diseases, new advances are linking pathological genetic changes with mechanisms in the brain. In Bench to Bedside, Guoping Feng and Jonathan Ting peruse a study that uncovers how fragile X syndrome–causing gene mutations unleash a translation break that finally leads to overexpression of synaptic proteins that alter the proper transmission of signals at the synapse. Furthermore, changes in the brain during the development of a person can also provide information about when and where the diseased brain loses functional connectivity. In Bedside to Bench, Jeffrey Neul proposes that studying the functional networks in people with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and correlating changes with functional connectivity in animal models of these diseases, will uncover the mechanisms of normal and abnormal development and suggest possible treatment strategies.
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The authors declare no competing financial interests.