-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, Nov. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The brains of children with
autism have a higher-than-normal number of connections, and this
may be a reason for these kids' social difficulties, according to
two new studies.
These findings challenge the current belief that the brains of
autistic children have fewer neural connections than the brains of
typically developing children. The findings could lead to new ways
to detect autism early and new treatment methods, said the authors
of the studies, which were published in the Nov. 7 issue of the
"Our study addresses one of the hottest open questions in autism research," Kaustubh Supekar, of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a journal news release.
Using a large database of pediatric brain imaging, Supekar and
colleague Vinod Menon found that the brains of children with autism
are "hyper-connected," and that those with the highest number of
connections have the most severe social impairments.
In the second study, Ralph-Axel Muller and colleagues at San
Diego State University discovered hyper-connectivity in the brains
of teens with autism, particularly in the regions that control
vision. They also found that the severity of autism symptoms was
associated with the number of neural connections.
"Our findings support the special status of the visual system in children with heavier symptom load," Muller said in the news release.
Measuring the levels of connectivity in this area of the brain
might help in autism diagnosis, which currently relies on
behavioral criteria, he added.
Supekar and Menon said an imbalance in brain-circuit activity
also is seen in epilepsy, which may explain why many children with
autism also have epilepsy.
"Drawing from these observations, it might not be too farfetched to speculate that the existing drugs used to treat epilepsy may be potentially useful in treating autism," Supekar said.
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
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