Brain Study Sheds Light on Autism

Communication breakdowns between neural areas may be to blame

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MONDAY, Oct. 16, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- In adults with autism, various brain regions do not communicate as efficiently with one another as they do in normal people, U.S. researchers report.

Researchers used high-resolution electroencephalography (EEG) to examine the brains of 36 adults, ages 19 to 38. Half the study volunteers had autism. The researchers focused on connections in the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that deals with higher cognitive processes.

The study found that the volunteers with autism had abnormalities, including both over- and under-connectivity between neurons in different parts of the cortex.

"Our findings indicate adults with autism show differences in coordinated neural activity, which implies poor internal communication between the parts of the brain," study leader and postdoctoral researcher Michael Murias said in a prepared statement.

These abnormal brain patterns are a potential biomarker of autism and may help define the major characteristics of the disorder, Murias said. It may also be possible to use EEG to detect autism in young children, the researchers said. Early detection is crucial in providing interventions for the disorder.

The findings were presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in Atlanta.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Oct. 14, 2006

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