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Extra Brain Cells May Explain Autism

Posted: November 9th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Applied Science, Medicated, Michael Courtenay, Science, Science News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Extra Brain Cells May Explain Autism

A new study suggests that Autism starts in the womb, researchers have found a remarkable 67 per cent increase in the total number of brain cells in the prefrontal cortex of new born babies with ASD.

Extra Brain Cells May Explain AutismChildren with autism appear to have too many cells in a key area of the brain needed for communication and emotional development, say US researchers. Their findings help explain why young children with autism often develop brains that are larger or heavier than normal. Dr Eric Courchesne says the finding of excess brain cells in the prefrontal cortex explains brain overgrowth in autism, and hints at why brain function in this area is disrupted. Courchesne, of the University of California San Diego Autism Center of Excellence, and colleagues, have also found dozens of genes that may raise the risk of autism. But genetic causes only explain 10 per cent to 20 per cent of cases, and recent studies have pointed to environmental factors, possibly in the womb, as a potential trigger. The team found excess brain cells in each child with autism they studied, says Courchesne. And the brains of the autistic children also weighed more than those of typically developing children of the same age.

Researchers searching for an early indicator of autism say they’ve discovered a promising possibility, an impairment in the ability of the brain’s right and left hemispheres to communicate with each other. The researchers did brain imaging scans – fMRIs – on 29 sleeping toddlers with autism, 30 typically developing kids and 13 children with significant language delays, but not autism. All were between 1 and 4 years old. The scans showed that the language areas of the left and right hemispheres of the autistic toddlers’ brains were less “in sync” than the hemispheres of the typical kids and the children with other language delays. The weaker the synchronization, the more severe the autistic child’s communication difficulties :: Read the full article »»»»