Answers emerge to some mysteries of autism

October 21st, 2011 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 21 (IANS) Researchers have come up with answers as to why autistic children act and think differently than their peers.

They’ve shown, for the first time, that the connections between brain regions that are important for language and social skills grow much more slowly in autistic boys than in ‘normal’ ones.

Jennifer G. Levitt, study co-author and professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and colleagues found aberrant growth rates in the brain implicated in the social impairment, communication deficits and repetitive behaviours that characterise autism.

Despite its prevalence, little is known about the disorder, and no cure has been discovered, the journal Human Brain Mapping reports.

Normally, as children grow into teenagers, the brain undergoes major changes. This highly dynamic process depends on the creation of new connections, called white matter, and the elimination or “pruning” of unused brain cells, called grey matter, according to an UCLA statement.

As a result, our brains work out the ideal and most efficient ways to understand and respond to the world around us. Although most children with autism are diagnosed before they are three years old, this study suggests that delays in brain development continue into adolescence.

“Because the brain of a child with autism develops more slowly during this critical period of life, these children may have an especially difficult time struggling to establish personal identity, develop social interactions and refine emotional skills,” said study co-author Xue Hua.

“This new knowledge may help to explain some of the symptoms of autism and could improve future treatment options,” she added.

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