Are the brains of children with autism larger than usual?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 1 in every 110 children has autism.
Autism is believed to be the result of a neurological disorder impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction and communication skills, according to the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
Using MRIs scientists (General Archives of Psychiatry) have for the first time studied the early growth trajectories in brain volume and cortical thickness in 59 children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 38 control children at age 2.
The follow up included 38 ASD children and 21 controls, re-examined approximately 24 months later, between the ages of 4-5 years.
MRIs showed generalized cerebral cortical enlargement in children with ASD, with a disproportionate enlargement in temporal lobe white matter.
Scientists from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, University of Utah say there was no significant difference from controls in the rate of brain growth for this age 2-4 interval, indicating that brain enlargement in ASD results from an increased rate of brain growth before age 2.
No cerebellar differences were observed in children with ASD. After controlling for total brain volume, a disproportionate enlargement in temporal lobe white matter was observed in the ASD group. They found no significant differences in cortical thickness but observed an increase in an estimate of surface area in the ASD group compared with controls for all cortical regions measured (temporal, frontal, and parieto-occipital lobes).
The presence of increased cortical volume, but not cortical thickness, suggests that early brain enlargement may be associated with increased cortical surface area.
Another new study in the Journal of Pediatrics says broadband screening using the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile Infant-Toddler Checklist at the 1-Year Well-Baby Check-Up shows promise as a simple mechanism to detect cases of ASD, LD, and DD.
Previous research suggests children as young as 1 year old can show signs of autism, according to Autism Speaks. It typically appears during the first three years of life and is four times more prevalent in boys than girls.
Autism is the most common of the Pervasive Developmental Disorders, according to the CDC – affecting an estimated 2 to 6 per 1,000 people.
The U.S. Department of Education says autism is growing at a rate of 10-17 percent per year and could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade.
The number of children with autism in Rhode Island’s public schools increased more than 1,500 between 1992 and 2002, according to the Autism Project of Rhode Island.
Autism Project of Rhode Island
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