The New England Journal of Medicine – A recent study by researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, have found that patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
US scientists analysed post-mortem brain tissue of 22 children aged between two and 15 years of age, with and without autism.
The researchers used used genetic markers to look at the brain cortex. Abnormalities were found in 90% of the children with autism, 10% were found in children without ASD.
The scientists also believe that the scattered pattern of the undeveloped cells may explain the wide range of symptoms seen in children.
Prof Eric Courchesne, a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego said that finding that the defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism.
The defects found occurred in regions that control emotion, communication, language and social comprehension, all of these functions are impaired in autism.
Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society Centre for Autism, said:
“Better understanding of the early brain development of children with autism could help us find new and more effective ways to support the estimated 700,000 people living with the condition across the UK,”
This study seems to support previous research findings but the sample is small and further research and investigation is required.