CYFIP1 is Gene Responsible for Movement Impairments in Autism

Annamaria Cavaleri ‘22

Figure 1. Depicted is a nerve cell (neuron) in the brain.

Researchers from Cardiff University in the UK discovered a link between the CYFIP1 gene and developmental movement impairments in autism. The group concluded that this genetic mutation leads to alterations in developing brain cells, causing motor problems linked to motor learning difficulties at a young age. This, however, may be able to be reversed through behavioral training.

People with autism tend to experience difficulty with social interactions and communication. Additionally, they experience repetitive behaviors and movement disorders related to posture and coordination. It is known that the CYFIP1 gene mutation impacts the structural stability of cells in the brain. The team of researchers on this study found that the mutation affected the formation of spines of brain cells, which resulted in cell instability and caused motor problems to arise during the development of autism in the brain through microscopy.

Researchers believe that through movement therapy, during the early developing stages of autism, the impact of this gene may be able to be reversed and movement impairments could be reduced. Movement therapy is a relatively new type of therapy that combines movement and music with positive reinforcement to treat those with autism.

Behavioural training is an option given to early age patients who experience difficulties in motor learning. This is crucial for the work toward future prevention of autism related symptoms before its full onset. Future longitudinal studies may be done with testing behavioral training techniques and observing possible reduction of autism symptoms.

  1. S. Bachmann, et. al., Behavioral training rescues motor deficits in Cyfip1 haploinsufficiency mouse model of autism spectrum disorders. Translational Psychiatry 9, (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41398-018-0338-9.  
  2. Image retrieved from:

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