An international team of researchers, led by Dr Christina Gurnett of Washington University School of Medicine, has discovered a flawed genetic code to be at the root of sleepwalking.
The study has been reported in the journal 'Neurology'. Somnambulism, or sleepwalking, is a problem that affects 10 per cent of children and one in 50 adults experience this problem too.
Often, the factors that trigger an episode of sleepwalking are stress and fatigue. Soon after a person falls asleep and is in, what is known as, the non-rapid eye movement stage of sleep this is when sleepwalking takes place. Sometimes, a person may even step out of home and drive his car, and later on, return to bed, with absolutely no memories when he wakes up in the morning. It can turn out to be a potentially dangerous experience.
Now, Dr. Gurnett with her research team has concluded a study on the genetic factor involved in this condition. The subjects of the study involved a family that had this problem for four generations and in the present one, nine out of 22 members sleepwalk.
The study looked at saliva samples to identify the causative factor in the DNA. The researchers found a flaw in a section of chromosome 20, which they claim causes the sleepwalking. In this particular family the flawed chromosome keeps recurring from generation to generation causing the problem to surface in every generation.
The research is by no means complete for the responsible genes in this region of chromosome 20 have not yet been identified, although the researchers feel it could be the adenosine deaminase gene.
But as Dr. Gurnett told the BB C in an interview, "It is likely that several genes will be involved. What we have found is the first genetic locus for sleepwalking. But discovering these genes could help with identifying and treating the condition."