The origins of autism continue to remain mysterious. However, researchers are continuing their tireless work to understand which areas of the brain are involved and in what way the first signs of the condition appears.
The latest findings bring us closer to understanding the pathology of the condition as well as understanding the point where it actually begins to take shape in the brain of a person diagnosed with autism. Researchers are hopeful such knowledge will help one attain earlier intervention.
Scientists were able to successfully measure brain connectivity in 260 infants aged between 6 to 12 months using a type of MRI which is known as diffusion-weighted imaging. The young infants were observed to have either lower risk or higher risk for the autism condition.
Nevertheless, the strengths and lengths of the underlying connections between the unique regions of the brain were used to accurately estimate the different network efficiencies of the brain. These estimates are helpful in accurately measuring how well each region of the brain is connected to other regions.
An earlier study involving children aged 24 months, observed network efficiency in autistic children to be lower in the other regions of the brain that seemed to involve language and other related behaviors which have a direct link to the autism condition. Researchers state that the sole aim of the present study was to establish how abnormalities occur with greater accuracy.
John Lewis, lead author of the study and researcher based out of Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital found network related inefficiencies were already present in six-month-old infants who were believed to have an autism. Lewis highlights these efficiencies to be present in the auditory cortex. Lewis also explained that inefficiency extents are positively related to the severity of autism.
As infants aged, other areas involving processing of touch and vision as well as other larger areas involving language and sound were seen to show a relationship between inefficiencies and symptom severity.
Identification of early signs is critical since it assists one in having an early diagnosis before underlying behavioral changes appear which in turn can lead to better and positive outcomes. Researchers highlight that pinpointing the critical regions in the brain that are responsible in having sensory inputs processed, helps in decoding the neural dysfunction locations that could be related to autism condition. Researchers further aim to narrow down the mechanisms and genetic factors that could be behind the origin of the condition.
Lewis says, “Our chief aim is to discover when and where in the brain network inefficiencies appear.” These results accurately highlight the underlying differences in the infant brains who go on to be diagnosed with the condition.
The team concludes that the findings are bound to be helpful in understanding the actual mechanisms of the autism condition while having newer interventional programs.