Recently at the Annual Meeting for the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR), some fascinating was revealed into the brain development of infants with Autism.
At the 10th annual meeting of INSAR, Dr. David Amaral of the University of California, Davis revealed that the brain development associated with regressive Autism can be imaged in children as young as 4 months of age. This is not only a remarkable discovery, but also lends a great deal more weight to the argument that the MMR vaccine (which is given at 12 months) does not cause autism.
Dr. Eric Courchesne of the University of California, San Diego found that connectivity between the Temporal Lobe (which deals at least in part with Speech, Memory, Reading, Emotional Responses, Auditory Responses, Visual Processing and Olfactory Functions) and the Limbic System (a set of primitive structures within the brain, again partly used to process emotions and sensory input) both develop very differently in people with ASD’s very early on.
Also the Frontal Cortex (responsible for higher brain functions such as mathematics, logic and reasoning) appears to have twice as many cells in young people with autism, but then slows in development as they age. It is thought that this could be one of the factors that leads some autistic children to develop exceptional gifts early on, but to struggle with social reasoning and development later on.
It appears that there maybe a small physical manifestion in infants with ASD’s – Dr. Courchesne has noted that “Precocious” brain growth and larger head diameters in those early months are associated with regression.” and although not a diagnostic criteria, is still nevertheless an interesting find.
Other research presented at the conference points towards possible links between ASD’s and the mothers health during pregnancy. A difficult labour or fever during the early part of pregnancy could contribute towards the development of ASD’s in children. It has also been suggested that mothers who suffer from hypertension or diabetes, or are obese before pregnancy, are statistically more likely to have children on the Autistic Spectrum.
The causes of Autism are very complex and quite difficult to pin down. The study of the Autistic Spectrum Disorders is still a very young science and as we all know, science is still largely baffled by the brain and how it works exactly, but progress is being made. It is obvious now, that people on the Autistic Spectrum do have neurological differences and in severe cases, those differences can have a truely devasting effect. However, for others there can also be some benefit and indeed some benefit for society as a whole. As we understand autism more, it becomes clearer that the thought processes behind many of our greatest advances where in no small way linked to the autistic mind.
I suppose the question many people reading this will have, is will Autism ever be cured?
I think very soon it will be very easy to detect early on in a childs development, and that treatment to help cope with or suppress symptoms will continue to improve. In time, it may be possible to not only identify the causes, but also to reduce the number of instances of Autism.
On a personal note, I am often asked the question: If you could cure your Aspergers Syndrome, would you?
The answer to that is no, probably not. It has caused me incredible difficulties in my time and will always continue to do so, but equally it is very much a part of who I am and has granted me insights and abilities that I know I wouldn’t have had or understood otherwise.
Zen Emu X