Skip to main content



Researchers find possible neuromarker for ‘juvenile-onset’ Batten disease

Monday, January 8, 2024

Early symptoms can be subtle. A child’s personality and behavior may change, and clumsiness or stumbling develops between the ages of five and ten. Over time, cognitive impairment sets in, seizures emerge or worsen, vision loss begins, and motor skills decline. This is the course of Batten disease, a progressive inherited disorder of the nervous system that results from mutations to the CLN3 gene.

“It is a devastating neurodegenerative disorder of childhood,” said John Foxe, PhD, director of the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience and co-director of the University of Rochester Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center (UR-IDDRC), “and while it is very rare, it is important to study and understand because it could inform what we know and how we treat it and other related rare diseases.”

In a new study, out today in the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Foxe and a team of researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center may be closer to that goal of understanding. The paper describes how they measured changes in brain function of participants with CLN3 disease, also known as 'juvenile-onset' Batten disease. Researchers found that the functioning of the auditory sensory memory system—the brain system required for short-term memory recall—appears to decrease as the disease progresses. They revealed this by utilizing electroencephalographic recordings (EEG) to measure the brain activity of participants with and without Batten disease as they passively listened to simple auditory beeps. The participants simultaneously watched a video of their favorite movie while the brain responses to these beeps were being measured. In the participants with Batten disease, the EEG revealed a decline in the response from the auditory sensory memory system as the disease progressed. There were no significant changes among the other participants. This finding suggests that this easy-to-measure brain process may be a target or biomarker in measuring treatment outcomes in clinical trials.

“We needed to find a task that did not require explicit engagement or attention, and this is one of those kinds of tasks,” Foxe said. “The brain produces the signal that we're looking at, regardless of whether the participant is paying attention to the beeps or not. It is an objective method that provides new insight into the brain function of a population with varying communication abilities.”

Read More: Researchers find possible neuromarker for ‘juvenile-onset’ Batten disease