A key to unlocking autism?

March 20, 2014

Researchers think they now know why children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit the hallmark symptom of withdrawing into their own inner world: They are paying attention to all the information their brains are processing while they are seemingly at rest.

 

Researchers think they now know why children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit the hallmark symptom of withdrawing into their own inner world: They are paying attention to all the information their brains are processing while they are seemingly at rest.

Investigators from Toronto, Ontario, and Cleveland, Ohio, discovered in a recent study that autistic children extract far higher amounts of input and information in the absence of relevant sensory stimuli or attention to external cues than children without ASD.

The study was a small one, involving just 9 children with Asperger syndrome aged between 7 and 16 years and 10 controls aged between 6 and 14 years who had no known neurologic disorders. All the children with Asperger syndrome were boys; the controls were 6 boys and 4 girls.

The researchers used a noninvasive brain imaging method known as magnetoencephalography and analyzed signals recorded at rest (ie, when the participants were not presented with specific sensory stimuli). The children were lying flat and not looking at anything in particular.

By doing so, the researchers found that the brains of those children with Asperger syndrome produced significantly more “noise” or “information”-a 42% increase-than age-matched controls during such periods of rest. They were also able to determine that some brain regions in children with Asperger syndrome do not communicate well with each other.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with an ASD, with 5 times more boys than girls affected. 


 

 

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