Archive for the 'UAE' Category

UAE the Intellectual Centre

I think it is nice that UAE wants to be the Intellectual Centre in the region and the world, but to do this, I believe that they need to look at the begin instead of the end of a person’s educational education.  If the UAE wants to be the centre of intellectual they need to start at birth, and through out Early Education, not just Higher Education.  The child’s building blocks of their brain starts at birth and after age seven the blocks are just about finished growing. My wish is to see more importance put on Early Education, to truly give the children of the UAE a better chance when they are in Higher Education.  This in return will truly give the UAE the title of Intellectual Centre in the region and the world.

Khaleej Times:

Speaking at the closing ceremony at Dubai Men’s College, Shaikh Nahyan said: “You (Nobel laureates and experts) brought to the festival great experience, impressive knowledge, superior intellect and a commitment to global progress. The presentations and discussions reflected your conviction that thinkers, acting alone or in concert, have the capacity and the responsibility to effect necessary progress and change.

“I am also hopeful the festival will help establish the United Arab Emirates as a major intellectual centre in the region and the world.”

A sapling was planted as part of the concluding day of the festival.

A panel discussion on the role of educators in preparing creative and responsible citizens was the highlight of the day. University heads spoke about their ideas and plans for educating the younger generation.

Babies not as innocent as they pretend

It seems that children learn at an early age to see just how far they can go with their parents and other adults, this is according to study at University of Portsmouth’s psychology department. Read more at

Behavioural experts have found that infants begin to lie from as young as six months. Simple fibs help to train them for more complex deceptions in later life.

Until now, psychologists had thought the developing brains were not capable of the difficult art of lying until four years old.
Infants quickly learnt that using tactics such as fake crying and pretend laughing could win them attention. By eight months, more difficult deceptions became apparent, such as concealing forbidden activities or trying to distract parents’ attention.

By the age of two, toddlers could use far more devious techniques, such as bluffing when threatened with a punishment.

Dr Reddy said: “Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if their mother is responding, before crying again.

“It demonstrates they’re clearly able to distinguish that what they are doing will have an effect. This is essentially all adults do when they tell lies, except in adults it becomes more morally loaded.”

She added: “Later it becomes more sophisticated by saying, ‘I don’t care’ when threatened with a punishment – when they clearly do.”

Dr Reddy thinks children use early fibs to discover what kinds of lie work in certain situations, and also learn the negative consequences of lying too much.

New children’s library established in UAE

(MENAFN) A doctor at the Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalid Al Nahyan Cultural and Religious Center in Al Ain said that a children’s library has recently been established in the city, Khaleej Times reported.

He went on to say that the new library is known as Ajyal Al Mostaqbal or Future Generations library and is said to be one of the foremost projects undergone by the childern’s center in Al Ain.

It is noteworthy that that the recently established library will provide assistance to UAE children between the ages of six and sixteen and that the library currently holds hundreds of books on culture, arts, religion, and science.

Southborough autism center to help build school in UAE

The MetroWest Daily News:

Southborough –

The New England Center for Children has been recruited by the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi to establish a school for autistic children in the United Arab Emirates’ capital.

The 10-year agreement, signed last week at the Sea Palace in Abu Dhabi by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and New England Center for Children CEO Vincent Strully Jr., will not only bring the center’s programs to the Arab nation, but it will also bring funding for new research, administration and treatment programs to the Rte. 9 school.

“It’s an incredible recognition of our work,” said Strully as he addressed the staff yesterday. “We should feel honored and flattered that when they shopped the world for autism services, they chose us.”

The center’s relationship with Abu Dhabi actually began a decade ago, when the parents of an Abu Dhabi 3-year-old were referred by a Boston hospital. Services for special needs children in the emirate are limited and the school was asked to supply a teacher for the child, according to Daniel Gould, the director for the Abu Dhabi program.

Gould does not expect to have difficulty recruiting teachers for the new program, since he has always had to turn away eager applicants for the existing position in Abu Dhabi.

“It’s a great opportunity for our teachers to do great things for a country that hasn’t had these services previously,” Gould said. Abu Dhabi “is really at a point when they’re focusing on the infrastructure for their entire country.”

This is not the first time the emirate has shopped stateside for services. Johns Hopkins Medicine has been contracted to manage Tawam Hospital, Abu Dhabi’s largest hospital, and the Cleveland Clinic earlier this month was tapped to manage Shaikh Khalifa Medical City. Earlier this year it struck a deal with France to build a Louvre Museum.

The financial details of the agreement are confidential, Strully said, but he anticipates the deal will go a long way in helping the school further delve into the needs of children with autism.

“These children and their families deserve the best and the most professional attention we can provide for them and, thanks to this agreement, this will soon be available here at home in Abu Dhabi,” Prince Nahyan said in a statement. “This is a major step toward implementing the vision of his Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, to establish world-class facilities and services for all children with special needs within our country.”

In November, the center will open the first of eight planned classrooms where each child will receive intensive behavioral instruction based on applied behavior analysis. Over the next two years, it will gradually add the full spectrum of services, including early assessment and intervention, preschool programming, residential services for severe cases, family support services, professional training and development and a research center.

Staff members recruited for the work will earn their regular salary as well as an annual bonus, likely under $10,000. They will live rent-free and receive a monthly living allowance of $500, six or seven weeks of vacation and a health/beach club membership.

English is a commonly used language in Abu Dhabi but staff will be also be training Arabic-speaking personnel there, Gould said.

Autism cases are on the rise in the United Arab Emirates, just as they are in the United States, Strully said. Autism affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans of which 600,000 are children.

“It’s the same around the world,” Strully said. “All races, creeds and classes. There’s clearly a genetic origin – all the signs point to that. What is abundantly clear is that it is not caused by vaccines. That’s been proven by science, again and again. It’s such a distraction. There is money that is being wasted (studying the vaccine link to autism) when we have these kids who need to be treated now.

“I can’t understand why (most autism funding) is being spent on finding a cause,” he added. “We need to find a cause, but that’s 30, 40 years down the line. This generation of children, the next generation of children, need to be treated now.”

In addition to Abu Dhabi, the center has staff treating children in Qatar, Bermuda and Vancouver and has ongoing relationships with institutions in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand and Uganda.
“This situation changes everything for us,” Strully said. “We’ve always wanted to be a little Mayo Clinic for autism. This just gets us closer.”

Strully hopes the partnership will not only allow the school to expand its services but also to complete and publish what he termed an online “encyclopedia” detailing the principles of applied behavior analysis for parents and educators.

“Here at the center, we have had to turn away hundreds of families from around the world,” Strully said. “We’re just not big enough to serve everyone, and there’s a substantial need. We want to be able to expand the knowledge that is out there.”

(Jennifer Lord can be contacted at 508-626-3880 or

Union Properties supports Children’s City

AME Info: 

UP has planned several activities dedicated to the community this year to highlight its 20 years of growth in the emirate of Dubai.

‘We owe our success and growth over the past 20 years to the Government of Dubai’s infinite support for the private sector, and it is our turn to give back to the society that forms the Dubai community,’ said Michael Jackson, Marketing Director, UP. ‘As a company, we recognize the importance of children’s creative and educational development, and our goal is to support their future through our commitment to support non-profit organizations such as Children’s City, who are part of Dubai Municipality.’

Makiya Al Haijiri, Head of Children’s City said, ‘The support of the private sector in Children’s City activities is very important in achieving our social goals.’

‘With the launch of our 20th anniversary commemorations in April 2007, we have organized a series of community activities to support various non-profit organizations. The support we are offering Children’s City today represents the first of many such activities that we have planned for this year. It is our way of supporting the organizations that work hand in hand with schools and families to develop children who are confident and creative builders of their future,’ added Jackson.

Ibn Battuta mall’s second monthly Coffee Club

Al Bawaba:

Women and children gather at ibn battuta mall’s second monthly coffee club to raise funds for the beit al khair society.

Guests enjoyed a Starbucks Coffee Seminar, new Summer Ranges by Debenham’s and a fun fitness demonstration by Fitness First

Over 130 women and children gathered at Ibn Battuta Mall’s second monthly Coffee Club this morning to hear an interactive Coffee Seminar from special host Starbucks, view the latest Summer looks from Debenham’s and be motivated by an energizing aerobic performance by Fitness First, with all donations raised going towards the Beit Al Khair Society – who provide humanitarian services to the needy U.A.E nationals.

Starbucks showcased its leading coffees from around the world and discussed the origins of the featured coffees in “Geography is a Flavour”, with guests learning different tasting terms used by professional baristas and also how to brew the perfect cup of coffee at home using the Starbucks coffee press. At the session, participants also discovered how to pair select coffees with the ideal food item to compliment the flavours and provide a taste sensation.

“We are passionate about the coffees we serve and interactive workshops such as these help us to share our knowledge and expertise with our customers so they can discover the Starbucks Experience at our stores and their homes,” said Maan Kouly, Senior Operations Manager, Starbucks Coffee Middle East.
Children were kept entertained by the friendly and fun Ibn Battuta Mall characters, while their mothers watched Debenhams, voted UAE’s best department store by Grazia Magazine readers, present their Summer Ranges for both men and women in a lively and entertaining fashion parade, with 15 Fitness First trainers acting as models for the event.

“We are thrilled with the attendance each month to Ibn Battuta Mall’s Coffee Club and we are delighted to host an event for women in Dubai to gather and engage in topics across health, lifestyle, childcare, fitness and fashion, while also raising funds for a charity which today was the Beit Al Khair Society,” said Sandy Mercer, Marketing Manager, Ibn Battuta Mall.

Benefit (Make Up) from Debenhams provided mini make overs for guests, while Calvin Kelin launched the new fragrance CK1in2u and offered free samples to women who attended the Coffee Club.

Guests were also treated to a yoga demonstration and high energy aerobic routine from Fitness First professional trainers, with each attendee receiving a one week guest pass to any of the Fitness First locations around Dubai. One lucky lady also won a one month guest pass to attend Fitness First.
© 2007 Al Bawaba (

Rickets in Children

With the study by UAE University, I thought we should look at what happens when children are deficient in Vitamin D. This what the Mayo Clinic has to say about Rickets (name for children’s deficiency in Vitamin D).

Rickets is the softening and weakening of bones in children, usually because of an extreme and prolonged vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D is essential in promoting absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the gastrointestinal tract, which children need to build strong bones. A deficiency of vitamin D makes it difficult to maintain proper calcium and phosphorus levels in your bones.

Your body senses an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in your bloodstream and reacts by taking calcium and phosphorus from your bones to raise blood levels to where they need to be. This softens or weakens the bone structure, resulting most commonly in skeletal deformities such as bowlegs or improper curvature of the spine. Osteomalacia is the adult version of rickets.

If a vitamin D or calcium deficiency causes rickets, adding vitamin D or calcium to the diet generally corrects any resulting bone problems for the child. Rickets due to a genetic condition may require additional medications or specialized treatment. Some skeletal deformities caused by rickets may need corrective surgery.

Signs and symptoms

Vitamin D deficiency begins months before physical signs and symptoms of rickets appear. When rickets symptoms develop, they may include:

  • Skeletal deformities. -These include bowed legs, abnormal curvature of the spine, pelvic deformities and breastbone projection in the chest.
  • Fragile bones. -Children with rickets are more prone to bone fractures.
  • Impaired growth. -Delayed growth in height or limbs may be a result of rickets.
  • Dental problems. -These include defects in tooth structure, increased chance of cavities, poor enamel and delayed formation of teeth.
  • Bone pain. -This includes dull, aching pain or tenderness in the spine, pelvis and legs.
  • Muscle weakness. -Decreased muscle tone may make movement uncomfortable.


Vitamin D acts as a hormone to regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in your bones. You absorb vitamin D from two sources:

Sunlight. Your skin produces vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. This is the most common way for most adolescents and adults to produce the vitamin.

Food. Your intestines absorb vitamin D from the foods you eat or from supplements or multivitamins you may take.

In the past, dietary vitamin D deficiency was the most common cause of rickets in the United States. Now, with the increased use of vitamin supplements and the variety of foods fortified with vitamin D (such as orange juice and breakfast cereals), vitamin D deficiency cases of rickets have fallen.

Currently in the United States, conditions that impair vitamin D absorption such as the surgical removal of all or part of the stomach (gastrectomy) and celiac disease, in which the small intestine doesn’t absorb certain nutrients from food, cause most cases of rickets.

Other causes of rickets include:

Hereditary rickets (X-linked hypophosphatemia), an inherited form of rickets caused by the inability of the kidneys to retain phosphorus, or a complication of renal tubular acidosis, a condition in which your kidneys are unable to excrete acids into urine.

Lack of exposure to sunlight, which stimulates the body to make vitamin D

Risk factors

Children 6 to 24 months old are most at risk of rickets because they’re growing rapidly, and vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus play a major role in the growth process.

Risk factors for rickets include:

Lack of vitamin D. Breast-fed infants who don’t receive supplemental vitamin D are at increased risk of developing rickets. While exposure to sunlight could produce the necessary amounts of vitamin D, sunburn and skin cancer are real dangers for young children. Sunscreens also markedly decrease vitamin D production.

Lack of calcium and phosphorus. Children who don’t get enough calcium and phosphorus in their diets are at increased risk of rickets. The availability of milk and other products that contain these minerals make this cause a rarity for rickets in the United States and other developed countries.

Screening and diagnosis

Your doctor or your child’s doctor may diagnose rickets by:

Physical examination. Your doctor will check if the pain or tenderness is coming directly from the bones, instead of the joints and muscles surrounding them.

Blood tests. These measure calcium and phosphorus levels to see if they’re normal.

X-rays. Your doctor may take images of affected bones to look for softening or weakness.

Medical history. Kidney problems, celiac disease or diagnosis of a sibling with rickets may help lead your doctor to a rickets diagnosis.


While easily treated once it’s diagnosed, rickets has a severe list of complications if left untreated. Untreated vitamin D deficiency rickets may lead to:

Delays in your child’s motor skills development

Failure to grow and develop normally

Increased susceptibility to serious infections

Skeletal deformities

Chronic growth problems that can result in short stature (adults measuring less than 5 feet tall)


Dental defects


The aim of treatment for rickets is to solve the underlying disorder. If deficiencies in vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus are at fault, replacing vitamin D and those minerals generally eliminates the signs and symptoms of rickets, such as bone tenderness and muscle weakness. Improvement may occur within weeks.

Your doctor may prescribe a vitamin D supplement or ask you to increase your intake of vitamin D-fortified foods, including fortified breakfast cereal, orange juice, fish and processed milk. Your doctor may also recommend that you get a little sun. Remember that moderate exposure is the safest, and don’t expose infants under 6 months to direct sunlight.

Getting a sufficient intake of calcium is crucial to maintaining healthy bones. Your doctor can suggest an appropriate level of calcium intake depending on your age and whether you have absorption problems. The combination of increased vitamin D intake with calcium may be enough to eliminate the effects of rickets entirely.

Treating complications

For some cases of bowlegs or spinal deformities, your doctor may suggest special bracing to position your child’s body appropriately as the bones grow. More severe skeletal deformities may require surgery.


Although most adolescents and adults receive much of their necessary vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, infants and young children need to avoid direct sun entirely or be especially careful by always wearing sunscreen.

Vitamin D supplements

In light of these factors, and because human milk contains only a small amount of vitamin D, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all breast-fed infants receive 200 international units (IU) of oral vitamin D daily beginning during the first two months of life and continuing until the daily consumption of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk is two to three glasses or 500 milliliters (mL).

Vitamin D supplements for infants generally come in droplet form. Use only supplements that contain up to 400 IU of vitamin D per mL or tablet. Avoid supplements containing a higher concentration of vitamin D (some forms come in levels of up to 8,000 IU/mL), because they’re unsafe for children.

Getting enough calcium

Calcium and phosphorus consumption are also important for bone formation in childhood. Breast milk is the best source of calcium during a child’s first year of life. Most commercially available formulas also meet calcium requirements. Because of these factors, infants in the United States generally achieve 100 percent of their recommended intake of calcium. Unfortunately, this trend stops as children grow into adolescents and adults, and many fail to take in enough calcium, an essential component of skeletal formation. This lack of calcium may lead to osteomalacia, a form of rickets in adults.

Recommended daily intake of calcium is as follows (serving sizes vary with age):

1 to 3 years of age. 500 milligrams (mg) (two servings of dairy products a day)

4 to 8 years of age. 800 mg (two to three servings of dairy products a day)

9 to 18 years of age. 1,300 mg (four servings of dairy products a day, as most bone mass production occurs during this period)

19 to 50 years of age. 1,000 mg a day (three servings of dairy products a day)

Milk accounts for three-fourths of the calcium in the food supply of the United States. If you’re not drinking milk, be sure to find another source. Remember that low-fat can still mean high-calcium. Other sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables (spinach), fortified orange juices, fortified breakfast cereals and calcium supplements.

Middle Eastern women may have vitamin D deficiency

I found this today, and it is not something that you would just think about, but this just goes to show us that we really need to make sure we get our vitamins when we are pregnant and breastfeeding.  But what women need to remember that it is just as important for their health, that they get enough vitamin D.  Vitamin D is needed to help keep our bones strong.

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – In certain Middle Eastern and other countries where conservative dress curtails exposure to sunlight, high levels of vitamin D supplementation may be needed to raise serum levels sufficiently in women, investigators report.

“When sunlight exposure — the main source for vitamin D in humans — is limited,” Dr. Hussein F. Saadi told Reuters Health, “much higher dietary intake of vitamin D is needed than currently recommended,” especially for women who are breast-feeding.

As reported in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Saadi and colleagues at the United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, studied vitamin D levels in 90 women who were breastfeeding and 88 women who had never given birth. Many dressed to cover their whole bodies, including their hands and faces, while outside of their homes.

Only two of the women, one in each group, were not vitamin D deficient at study. All the women were randomly assigned to receive 2000 IU of vitamin D2 daily or 60,000 IU in one dose each month. The investigators note that vitamin D2 is the only high-dose calciferol available in the UAE.

Although both monthly and daily dosing significantly and safely increased vitamin D levels, only 21 of the 71 women (30 percent) who completed the 3-month study reached the recommended blood levels.

Vitamin D2 doses “as high as 2000 IU per day were marginally effective in ensuring adequate vitamin D status,” Saadi commented. He and his colleagues suggest that “if the more potent vitamin D3 preparation is not available, higher doses of vitamin D2 than currently studied may be needed.”

Dr. Saadi added, “When compliance or adherence with a daily regimen of vitamin D supplementation is an issue, monthly dosing appears to be a safe and effective alternative in ensuring adequate vitamin D status in subjects at risk for vitamin D deficiency.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007.

More Vitamin D information from Wikipedia.

Vitamin D can also refer to Vitamin D (producer)

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble prohormones, the two major forms of which are vitamin D2 (or ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol).[1]The term vitamin D also refers to metabolites and other analogues of these substances. Vitamin D3 is produced in skin exposed to sunlight, specifically ultraviolet B radiation.

Vitamin D plays an important role in the maintenance of organ systems.[2]

Vitamin D regulates the calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood by promoting their absorption from food in the intestines, and by promoting re-absorption of calcium in the kidneys.

It promotes bone formation and mineralization and is essential in the development of an intact and strong skeleton.

It inhibits parathyroid hormone secretion from the parathyroid gland.

Vitamin D affects the immune system by promoting immunosuppression, phagocytosis, and anti-tumor activity.

Vitamin D deficiency can result from inadequate intake coupled with inadequate sunlight exposure, disorders that limit its absorption, conditions that impair conversion of vitamin D into active metabolites, such as liver or kidney disorders, or, rarely, by a number of hereditary disorders.[2]

Deficiency results in impaired bone mineralization, and leads to bone softening diseases, rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, and possibly contributes to osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency may also be linked to many forms of cancer.

Children ‘put at risk of rickets’

BBC Health News:

Children are being put at risk of rickets because policies on vitamin D supplements are not been adhered to, experts have warned.
Doctors in Dundee write in the British Medical Journal that they recently diagnosed five infants with rickets – which can stop bones forming properly.

The government recommends that pregnant women should use vitamin D supplements.

Babies from Asian, African, Afro-Caribbean or Middle Eastern backgrounds are particularly at risk.

The paediatricians at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee said none of the mothers of the five children they had recently diagnosed had received vitamin D supplements.

They warned parents were unaware of the risk because it was rarely mentioned by GPs or health visitors.

Government recommendations state that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should take vitamin D supplements.

They are also recommended for infants in high-risk groups.

The main source of vitamin D is through ultra-violet radiation in sunlight, although it can also be found in certain foods.

It is crucial for the absorption of calcium, which is key in the formation of healthy bones. Deficiencies can lead to rickets, poor tooth formation, stunted growth and general ill health.

People with darker skin are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiencies because increased pigmentation reduces the capacity of the skin to manufacture the vitamin from sunlight.


Dr Scott Williamson, specialist registrar at Ninewells hospital, said there was a lack of awareness in primary care.

“If you try to find official government advice, it’s not that easy to find,” he said.

“It may be the government needs to better disseminate the guidance.

“There does seem to be a bit of ignorance – for instance people don’t realise you’re more at risk of getting rickets if you’re breastfed.

“Also we’re failing ethnic groups by not reinforcing the public health message.”

Vitamins are provided for free under the Healthy Start initiative, which is aimed at low income families on Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Child Tax Credits.

They are also provided free to pregnant women under the age of 18 years but Dr Willamson said GPs should be prescribing the vitamins (which can also be bought from the chemist) for all pregnant women.

Dr Tony Williams, consultant in neonatal paediatrics at St George’s Hospital in London, said that when rickets occurred in babies, it was a sign that the mother was deficient in vitamin D during the last few months of pregnancy.

“The policy for many years has been that women should receive vitamin D supplements during pregnancy but hardly any do,” he said.

But he said antenatal guidance from the government’s drugs watchdog NICE had concluded that it was not necessary and this had added to the confusion.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition recently published advice supporting supplementation.

Protein mutations link to autism

BBC News:

Scientists have discovered how mutations in two key proteins may lead to autism.
They have shown one protein increases the excitability of nerve cells, while the other inhibits cell activity.

The University of Texas team found that in normal circumstances the proteins balance each other out.

But the study, published in Neuron, suggests that in people with autism the balance between the proteins is knocked out of kilter.

The findings back the theory that autism involves an imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory connections between nerve cells.

The proteins, which serve to physically link nerve cells together, were discovered by the team at the university’s Southwestern Medical Center more than a decade ago.

However, until the latest study their exact function had been unclear.

Lead researcher Dr Ege Kavalali said: “Mutations in these proteins have recently been linked to certain varieties of autism.

“This work provides clear insight into how the proteins function. We can never design a therapeutic strategy without knowing what these mutations do.”

Bridge between cells

The proteins – neuroligin-1 and neuroligin-2 – create a physical bridge at the junction – or synapse – of nerve cells, enabling them to make connections with others.

In studies on rats the researchers showed that raising levels of both proteins in nerve cells led to the creation of extra synapses.

Neuroligin-1 was associated with excitatory connections and neuroligin-2 with inhibitory connections.

When they introduced a mutant form of neuroligin-1 thought to be carried by some people with autism the number of synapses fell dramatically – and the cells became significantly less excitable.

Infants are born with far more synapses than survive to adulthood. Active synapses proliferate during development, but inactive synapses are culled.

The latest research suggests that carrying a mutant form of neuroligin-1 may depress the number of synapses that make it into adulthood.

This could hamper the ability of nerve cells to make the usual connections, and lead to the deficits seen in people with autism.

It affects the way a person communicates and interacts with other people.

Communication problems

People with autism cannot relate to others in a meaningful way. They also have trouble making sense of the world at large.

As a result, their ability to develop friendships is impaired. They also have a limited capacity to understand other people’s feelings.

Autism is often also associated with learning disabilities.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, said research into the role of neuroligins in autism was important.

He said: “We need to know more about both the genes that code for neuroligins, and the neuroligins themselves, to establish if they play a specific role in the cause of autism spectrum conditions and in which subgroup.

“Understanding how the autistic brain is different to the neurotypical brain will have significant implications for education and intervention.”