Brain scans detect autism's signature

November 15, 2010

An autism study by Yale School of Medicine researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has identified a pattern of brain activity that may characterize the genetic vulnerability to developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Published today in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study could eventually lead to earlier and more accurate autism diagnosis.

ASD is defined by impaired social interaction and communication, and can disrupt the brain's ability to interpret the movements of other people, known as "biological motion."

ASD is a strongly genetic, highly prevalent disorder.

Using fMRI, Yale researchers Martha Kaiser, Kevin Pelphrey and colleagues scanned the brains of children with autism and their unaffected siblings, as well as those of typically developing children as the three groups watched animations of biological movement. The study included 62 children age 4 to 17.

The team identified three distinct "neural signatures": trait markers—brain regions with reduced activity in children with ASD and their unaffected siblings; state markers—brain areas with reduced activity found only in children with autism; and compensatory activity—enhanced activity seen only in unaffected siblings. The enhanced may reflect a developmental process by which these children overcome a genetic predisposition to develop ASD.

"This study may contribute to a better understanding of the brain basis of ASD, and the genetic and molecular origin of the disorder," said first author Kaiser, a postdoctoral associate in the Yale Child Study Center.

More information: Citation: PNAS Early Edition doi/10.1073/pnas.1010412107 (November, 2010)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers identify brain network organization changes

May 25, 2017

As children age into adolescence and on into young adulthood, they show dramatic improvements in their ability to control impulses, stay organized, and make decisions. Those executive functions of the brain are key factors ...

Fathers' brains respond differently to daughters than sons

May 25, 2017

Fathers with toddler daughters are more attentive and responsive to those daughters' needs than fathers with toddler sons are to the needs of those sons, according to brain scans and recordings of the parents' daily interactions ...

Scientists demonstrate the existence of 'social neurons'

May 25, 2017

The existence of new "social" neurons has just been demonstrated by scientists from the Institut de neurosciences des systèmes (Aix-Marseille University / INSERM), the Laboratoire de psychologie sociale et cognitive (Université ...

How fear can develop out of others' traumas

May 25, 2017

What happens in the brain when we see other people experiencing a trauma or being subjected to pain? Well, the same regions that are involved when we feel pain ourselves are also activated when we observe other people who ...

Babies' slow brain waves could predict problems

May 25, 2017

The brain waves of healthy newborns – which appear more abnormal than those of severe stroke victims – could be used to accurately predict which babies will have neurodevelopmental disorders.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.