Very interesting new information about the origins of autism.
Children with autism show key “patches of disorganization” in the outer layers of the brain, according to a new study said to offer more evidence that the developmental disorder begins in the womb.
Experts have long believed autism involves disruptions in typical brain development, going back to pregnancy. The new study, reported online March 27 in the New England Journal of Medicine, offers more direct evidence of such early origins.
Researchers have managed to find a few hundred genes that are linked to autism risk. And although there is no definite environmental culprit, studies have tied certain factors during pregnancy to an increased risk, including exposure to high levels of air pollution, low intake of the B vitamin folate and viral infections.
Lein said the fact that the brain tissue showed small patches of disruption, rather than pervasive abnormalities, is “potentially good news.” It suggests that much of the neocortex is actually typical in children with autism, he said.
That might help explain why autistic toddlers who get early behavioral therapy often show significant improvements, Lein said. It’s possible the brain is able to “rewire,” to an extent, to get around some of the trouble spots seen in this study.