A small study suggests that children with autism have a different brain architecture than children without autism.
Specifically, autopsied brains of autistic children displayed what researchers referred to as "patches of disorganization" that were not seen in a control arm of non-autistic children, according to the findings.
According to Eric Courchesne, PhD, of the University of California San Diego, and colleagues, out of 11 children with autism who died unexpectedly (almost all of them died by drowning) a full ten of them had "focal disruption of cortical laminar architecture" compared to 10 of 11 non-autistic children who had also died suddenly whose brains showed no such disruption.
While researchers noted that the specific locations of these disorganized patches varied among the autistic children, in general they corresponded to, in the researchers' words, "regions mediating the functions that are disturbed in autism: social, emotional, communication, and language functions."
"Such abnormalities may represent a common set of developmental neuropathological features that underlie autism and probably result from dysregulation of layer formation and layer-specific neuronal differentiation at prenatal developmental stages," they concluded.
These results still need to be replicated in another, larger study, but they hint at a new way to look at brain organization in autism, and could indicate a more complete understanding of the brain structure that leads to autism.
Their findings appeared in the March 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Source: MedPage Today