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Gray Matter Brain-Chemistry Abnormalities Found in Autism

Spectroscopy study of autistic children shows reduced gray matter chemical concentrations

THURSDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Compared with other children, young patients with autism have reduced brain chemical concentrations and altered choline-containing compounds (Cho) in their gray matter, suggesting they have decreased cellularity, or density, according to a study published in the July issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Seth D. Friedman, Ph.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional spectroscopic imaging study of 45 children aged 3 to 4 years with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), 12 age-matched children with delayed development and 10 age-matched children with typical development.

The researchers found that the ASD group had decreased gray matter concentrations of Cho, creatine plus phosphocreatine, N-acetylaspartate and myo-inositol compared to the typical-development group. They also found that gray matter Cho transverse relaxation was prolonged in the ASD group compared to the typical-development group.

Children in both the ASD group and the delayed-development group demonstrated similar patterns of N-acetylaspartate and myo-inositol level decreases for white matter.

"White matter alterations appear to be less specific to autism and may be more related to general developmental pace," the authors conclude. "Future studies merging genetic subtyping with detailed magnetic resonance spectroscopy examination may be helpful to extend and refine the specificity of these observations."

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