home
RSS
Brain scans in infants shed light on autism onset
February 17th, 2012
08:58 AM ET

Brain scans in infants shed light on autism onset

New research provides evidence that wiring in the brains of children with autism differs from typically developing children as early as six months of age, according to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry on Friday.

"This is the earliest study of brain development using neuro-imaging," says Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. "By six months of age, even before the symptoms [of autism] emerge, the brain networks that connect different brain regions do not develop correctly."

Dawson is not only one of the study authors, she's also the Chief Science Officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which, along with the National Institutes of Health and the Simons Foundation, funded the research.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with researchers from other locations of the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) network, studied 92 babies who were all considered to be at high-risk for developing autism because they had older siblings with the neurodevelopmental disorder. Currently, about one in 110 children in the United States has autism, according to the latest CDC statistics.

All 92 infants underwent a type of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan called diffusion tensor imaging.  MRIs do not use radiation and therefore are safe to use on babies.

Most of the children were scanned again at the age of 12 and 24 months. They were also given standard behavioral assessments for autism when they were 24 months old. After the behavioral assessment, 28 children met the criteria for autism, 64 did not.

When the researchers looked at the 6, 12 and 24-month brain scans, they found differences in the development of white matter fiber tract development – how the neurons in the brain talk to or connect to other parts of the brain – in 12 of 15 major brain connections or pathways.

The 6-month brain scans of children who were later diagnosed with autism revealed that these white matter pathways were growing faster or were more dense compared to those who didn't develop autism. That growth then appears to slow down, so that at 12 months, both groups of children seem to have similar pathway development. By the time the children were 24 months old, the toddlers who developed autism had less dense brain connections than their typically developing counterparts.

Dr. Eric Hollander says these new findings are very important because they suggest brain connectivity plays a central role in autism. Hollander, who is the director of the Autism and Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, was not involved in the study.

He says the work done by these researchers is very unique and what's really fascinating is that they picked up the differences by studying children over time. Had the children only been studied at a single point, like at 12 months, the difference may not have been evident.

"Usually we are picking up clinical [behavioral] symptoms at 18 months, some say even earlier... clearly they are picking up alterations in white matter as early as 6 months."

Zachary Warren, who also was not involved with the research, describes this new research as "powerful" and "exciting" because he says it's the most impressive data to date that looks at the developing brain over time.

"It provides the best evidence to date that core features of autism are likely related to nerve biological connectivity. This is really compelling evidence that we should be focusing on connection and disconnection in the brain," said Warren, director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) at Vanderbilt University.

All the experts, including the study authors, caution that this doesn't mean researchers have found a way to diagnose autism using MRI scans.  The research is far too preliminary to draw that conclusion because it only included children who were known to be at high risk for autism because of their siblings.  Lead study author Jason Wolff says in a statement, "it's a preliminary albeit great first step towards thinking about developing a biomarker for risk in advance of our current ability to diagnose autism."

He says this study suggests that autism is a whole brain-phenomenon, rather than any particular brain region.

Dawson says further research needs to include other children, including other high-risk babies like those born prematurely, as well as low-risk babies – to see if the same differences in the development of white matter brain connections are seen. Researchers will also study even younger infants to see how early these brain connections seem to go awry.

Early diagnosis of autism leads to earlier interventions and, because this study identifies problems with the brain's connections before symptoms appear, Dawson is hopeful that this research could lead to earlier interventions.  She says if autism could be identified in infants before symptoms are apparent, they could receive therapies to stimulate early social development and possibly even prevent onset of symptoms.

Dawson says this study helps researchers better understand why children with autism have trouble with communication and social skills.  If different parts of the brain aren't properly connected, it helps explain why children with autism have difficulties developing complex social behaviors and language since multiple parts of the brain are involved at any given time.

Since this is still early research that provides clues to biomarkers for autism which may eventually lead to a clear diagnostic test, it's much too early to suggest regular MRI screenings to determine if a child will have autism.

Until such a test exists, parents are urged to look for early signs of autism, including:
- lack of eye contact
- failure to use gestures
- lack of social play
- child does not respond to its name by age 1

More information for recognizing early signs of autism can be found at www.autismspeaks.org and from the CDC.


soundoff (283 Responses)
  1. fullz dumps

    340206 875857You can definitely see your skills within the work you write. 478172

    March 14, 2021 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. LonnieGWyers

    Good day very nice blog!! Guy .. Excellent
    .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds
    additionally? I am satisfied to seek out so many helpful
    information here within the post, we'd like
    work out more strategies in this regard, thank
    you for sharing. . . . . .

    Feel free to visit my blog post; LonnieGWyers

    March 17, 2021 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Dusty Niau

    247xchanger.com is an electronic exchange company specialized in buying and selling of different types of digital currencies like Bitcoin, PerfectMoney, Ethereum, PayPal. You can visit their website at http://bit.ly/247xchanger

    http://ow.ly/YBIA6

    March 29, 2021 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. sildenafil mexico

    sildenafil mexico price https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ sildenafil for women

    April 5, 2021 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. edex (alprostadil)

    alprostadil mexico https://alprostadildrugs.com/ trimix v alprostadil

    April 5, 2021 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. vardenafil cvs

    does canada sell generic vardenafil https://vegavardenafil.com/ vardenafil 20 mg

    April 5, 2021 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Margit Oeltjen

    It’s really a nice and useful piece of info. I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing. Here is how to earn FREE Bitcoin https://medium.com/@InfoStar/how-to-earn-free-bitcoin-in-2020-960acfc34fec

    https://medium.com/@InfoStar/how-to-earn-free-bitcoin-in-2020-960acfc34fec

    April 10, 2021 at 21:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. canadian pharmacy cialis without prescription

    cialis canadian discounts https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian viagra cialis

    April 12, 2021 at 16:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. zithromax 250mg

    is zithromax over the counter https://zithromaxes.com/ zithromax usage

    April 14, 2021 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. buy tadalafil us

    40 mg tadalafil https://elitadalafill.com/ what is tadalafil

    April 15, 2021 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. domino qq poker online

    https://bandarq.net

    April 16, 2021 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. canadian pharmacies ed pills

    canadian diet pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pills pharmacy

    April 19, 2021 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. hotels near hobart indiana

    249956 840512I genuinely like this blog web site, will surely come back once again. Make sure you carry on creating quality content articles. 348517

    April 19, 2021 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. canada cheap viagra

    generic viagra shipping from canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ pfizer viagra canada pharmacy

    April 21, 2021 at 03:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. sildenafil 100mg for sale uk

    30 mg sildenafil chewable https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ buy sildenafil online cheap

    April 23, 2021 at 01:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. canadian pharmacy cialis without prescription

    buying canadian cialis https://canadacialisstore.com/ how safe and reliable are canadian cialis

    April 25, 2021 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. dapoxetine

    buy avanafil usa buy priligy usa

    April 29, 2021 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. avana

    buy avanafil canada avanafil dosage

    May 1, 2021 at 03:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. pfizer viagra canada pharmistry

    viagra in canada for sale to united states https://canadaviagrastore.com/ buy viagra from canada

    May 1, 2021 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Cupids Health

    Remember...

    Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes.

    Because for those who love with heart and soul

    there is no such thing as separation.
    ---------------–

    Award Winning Health Alert Site.
    Be in the know before the rest.

    https://bit.ly/3uh4Qf2

    May 6, 2021 at 01:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. chlorochin

    chlorowuine https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquine amazon

    May 9, 2021 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Ruby Badgero

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs

    http://adolit.blogspot.com/2007/03/another-online-film-festival.html

    May 11, 2021 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Clay Delaguardia

    This was great! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusuf-hanafy-82493b183

    May 12, 2021 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
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.