New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggests that changes in the developing brain before infant birth may cause symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Scientists from the Allen Institute for Brain Science (Seattle) and University of California (San Diego) analysed post-mortem brain tissue from 22 children (aged 2-15) with and without autism, using genetic markers to study how the outer parts of the brain and cortex, wired up and formed layers.
The study showed that patchy abnormalities affected the brain regions associated with social and emotional communication and language. These patchy abnormalities were found in 90% of the samples taken from children with autism.
The researchers think that the patchy nature of the abnormalities may explain why early treatment sometimes sees improvement in younger children with autism, believing that the infant brain may have a chance of rewiring itself to compensate for defects.
Carol Povey, Director at National Autistic Society commented:
“Better understanding of the early brain development of children with autism can help us find new and more effective ways to support the estimated 700,000 people living with the condition across the UK. Autism can have a profound and devastating impact but the right support can make a huge difference”.