Having too many brain cells in the region of the brain responsible for communication and emotional development has been linked to autism. A new study from the University Of California San Diego Autism Center of Excellence has found that children with autism have heavier brains that contain significantly more neurons compared to children without the disorder. The details of the analysis were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Autism is a severe disorder of brain function characterized by difficulties with social contact, intelligence and language, together with compulsive and unusual responses to the environment.
The region of the brain in which language and communication are based is known as prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is also responsible for certain behaviors including social ability, attention, and mood, all of which are areas of difficulty for children diagnosed with autism.
The study findings are based on a post-mortem analysis of seven autistic boys ranging in age from 2 to 16, who had all suffered accidental deaths. While the majority of the deaths resulted from drowning, at least one lost his life to muscle cancer at age 8, and the cause of death of the 16-year-old was undetermined.
The researchers examined the brains of the boys, and compared them to a control group of another half-dozen boys also having died in accidents, but none of whom were diagnosed with autism during their lives. Their findings revealed that the brains of autistic boys were about 18 percent heavier, and contained 67 percent more neurons in the prefrontal cortex than normal brain weight based on age.
The study authors wrote, “Because cortical neurons are not generated in postnatal life, this pathological increase in neuron numbers in autistic children indicates prenatal causes.”Faulty Prenatal Cell Birth Involved – Page 2