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April 6th, 2011
05:19 PM ET

On the Brain: Inside autism

Welcome to the autism edition of "On the Brain." April is Autism Awareness Month, so naturally there's been a lot of recent discussion of this mysterious developmental disorder.

New research in Pediatrics this week showed that most medications don't work for autism, and it's unclear who will benefit most from early behavioral interventions. The hormone secretin has been shown to be ineffective for addressing the core issues of autism, along with most antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, stimulants and other medications for hyperactivity. The antipsychotics risperidone and aripiprazole may have some benefit, but have powerful side effects, and more research should be done on them, experts tell CNN.

In the United States, 1 in 110 children have autism, which encompasses impairments in socializing and communication. It seems that , wealthy kids are more likely than poorer children to receive an autism diagnosis, a study in the American Sociological Review found. That means there are most likely many children, especially those who have milder forms of autism spectrum disorders, who are not accounted for, the authors said to HealthDay via U.S. News reports.

People with autism appear to use their brains differently from those who do not have the condition, and researchers at the University of Montreal have found that the autistic brain seems to have more highly developed areas involved in visual information processing, the BBC reported. But that comes at the expense of brain regions controlling decision-making and planning; there is less capacity for those areas in autistic brains, they found.

Mobile apps have also reached the autism community. An iPhone app called MyVoice comes up with words that might be useful based on a person's current location, so that he or  she can communicate easily and quickly. It is currently available for free download, CBC News reports.

Look out for a special CNN Health feature on Friday about the perils of raising a child with autismwho runs away without warning.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.