Yearly Archives: 2015

The School of Science appoints six faculty to named professorships [Source: Bendta Schroeder | School of Science, December 28, 2015] The School of Science announced that six of its faculty members have been appointed to named professorships this fall semester. The new appointments are: B. Gloria Choi, Samuel A. Goldblith […]

Simons Investigator Gloria Choi appointed to named professorship

[Source: Anne Trafton | MIT News Office, December 17, 2015] Neuroscientists link autism to reduced activity of key neurotransmitter in human brain. MIT and Harvard University neuroscientists have found a link between a behavioral symptom of autism and reduced activity of a neurotransmitter whose job is to dampen neuron excitation. The […]

Study finds altered brain chemistry in people with autism

[Source: Anne Trafton | MIT News, December 10, 2015] Neuroscientists unravel Shank3 gene’s role in autism and schizophrenia. Although it is known that psychiatric disorders have a strong genetic component, untangling the web of genes contributing to each disease is a daunting task. Scientists have found hundreds of genes that are […]

How one gene contributes to two diseases

[Source: MIT News, December 1, 2015]   Team re-engineers system to dramatically cut down on editing errors; improvements advance future human applications. The following is adapted from a press release issued today by the Broad Institute. Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for […]

MIT, Broad scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

[Source: BBC News, December 1, 2015]   Scientists say they have fine tuned a gene editing method to make it safer and more accurate – vital if it is to be used in humans to cure inherited diseases or inborn errors. The advance, outlined in Science Magazine, comes as world […]

Safer way to do gene editing

  Spectrum brings to you the most noteworthy news and analysis of advances in autism research in a way that explains the context and impact of each finding. The Spectrum wiki is intended to be a live collaboration, written and edited by researchers. Entries can include text, links, images, charts, […]

Introducing Spectrum’s wiki for autism research

[Source: Smithsonian Magazine, November 19, 2015]   MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe steps away from her research and places herself inside an MRI machine, alongside her infant son. The resulting image reflects differences in the size and substance of the two brains but also the universal symbol of love between a […]

MRI image becomes a tribute to motherhood

[Source: MIT News, November 9, 2015]   MIT researchers took home several awards last night at the 2016 Breakthrough Prize ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Edward Boyden, an associate professor of media arts and sciences, biological engineering, and brain and cognitive sciences, was one of five […]

Edward Boyden wins 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences

[Source: Spectrum, November 2, 2015]   Electrically stimulating a particular circuit in the brain improves learning and memory in a mouse model of Rett syndrome. The findings, detailed 14 October in Nature, suggest that some of the cognitive problems associated with the syndrome are reversible1. Cognitive impairment is a core feature […]

Brain stimulation could ease memory problems in Rett syndrome

[Source: McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT, November 2, 2015] by Anne Trafton New protein nanoparticles allow scientists to track cells and interactions within them. MIT engineers have designed magnetic protein nanoparticles that can be used to track cells or to monitor interactions within cells. The particles, described today in […]

Engineers design magnetic cell sensors

[Source: Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, October 16, 2015] Taking advantage of genetic heterogeneity in autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders could lead to precision therapies. Genetic research suggests that hundreds of genes are likely risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. This heterogeneity presents both challenges and opportunities when it […]

Leveraging genetic diversity to drive precision medicine

[Source:, October 15, 2015]   Today in Science magazine, Harvard neurologist Mustafa Sahin and MIT brain scientist Mriganka Sur summarize scientific progress toward delivering precision treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “Given the large number of genes that potentially confer ASD risk, the genetic heterogeneity of ASD presents a substantial obstacle to development […]

Sur and Sahin propose that biomarkers are crucial for future ...

[Source: McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, September 28, 2015]   NOVA takes a closer look at Expansion Microscopy, a technique developed in Ed Boyden’s lab.  

A new way to see the brain

[Source: Broad Institute, September 25, 2015] A team including the scientist who first harnessed the CRISPR-Cas9 system for mammalian genome editing has now identified a different CRISPR system with the potential for even simpler and more precise genome engineering. In a study published today in Cell, Feng Zhang and his colleagues […]

New system for human genome editing has potential to increase ...

[Source: MIT News, August 27, 2015] In 2011, MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe and colleagues reported that in blind adults, brain regions normally dedicated to vision processing instead participate in language tasks such as speech and comprehension. Now, in a study of blind children, Saxe’s lab has found that this transformation occurs […]

Young brains can take on new functions. Visual cortex of ...

[Source:, August 27, 2015] In a paper published today in Cell researchers from the Broad Institute and University of Tokyo revealed the crystal structure of theStaphylococcus aureus Cas9 complex (SaCas9)—a highly efficient enzyme that overcomes one of the primary challenges to in vivo mammalian genome editing. Read more…

Zhang lab unlocks crystal structure of new CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing ...

[Source:, May 22, 2015] The Human Genome Project gave us an incredible foundation from which to understand our potential genetic repertoire. In order to understand the actual roles of particular genes in disease, however, it is not only critical to identify genes, but also to know in which cells […]

Advances in technology and computational analysis paving the way for ...

[Source: MIT News, May 25, 2015] Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have identified a master genetic regulator that could account for faulty brain functions that contribute to schizophrenia. The work, reported May 25 in the advance online publication of Nature Neuroscience, may one day lead to […]

Master gene regulator could be new target for schizophrenia treatment

[Source: MIT News, April 27, 2015]   Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have shown for the first time that a common neurotransmitter acts via a single type of neuron to enable the brain to process information more effectively. The study appears in the April 27 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience. Read more…

Picower researchers ID brain mechanisms underlying alertness and attentiveness

[Source: MIT News, March 18, 2015] In talks at MIT, noted behavioral expert suggests encouraging skills of people with autism. When she was just two, doctors advised Temple Grandin’s mother that her child would probably need to be institutionalized for life due to her autism. But her mother would have […]

Temple Grandin: Look at what people can do, not what ...

[Source: MIT Technology Review, February 19, 2015] A new method for growing human brain cells could unlock the mysteries of dementia, mental illness, and other neurological disorders. As Madeline Lancaster lifts a clear plastic dish into the light, roughly a dozen clumps of tissue the size of small baroque pearls […]

Brain Organoids: A new method for growing human brain cells ...

[Source: ScienceBlog, February 11, 2015]   A new paper published in Nature Neuroscience this week out of Mark Bear’s lab at MIT suggests that a previously identified synaptic deficit in fragile-X syndrome, a neurological disorder commonly associated with autism-related symptoms, may not be specific to fragile-X, but may actually be a more […]

A common synaptic deficit in 2 autism-related disorders

[Source: MIT News, January 12, 2015]   Several genetic disorders cause intellectual disability and autism. Historically, these genetic brain diseases were viewed as untreatable. However, in recent years neuroscientists have shown in animal models that it is possible to reverse the debilitating effects of these gene mutations. But the question […]

New findings reveal genetic brain disorders converge at the synapse