Autistic children have more brain cells, finds study

The discovery of an excess of brain cells in autistic children could help to improve treatment of the condition, suggests a new study

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Evidence suggests a distinct difference between the brains of autistic children and the brains of children without the condition. 

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It seems that autistic children have about 67% more nerve cells in a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortext, says a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Social skills, communication, cognitive functions and language are all processed in this prefrontal cortex area of the brain. And social skills, communication, cognitive functions and language are all areas that kids with autism typically show abnormal development.

A deficiency in social skills is, in most cases, linked to lower levels of brain cells so the discovery of an excess of brain cells in children with autism is very surprising.

“When we think of the inability to handle complicated information, we usually think of too little in the way of connections or brain cells,” said lead researcher Eric Courchesne. “But this is just the opposite,” he added

Eric explained that the increased number of neurons may have led to difficulty in their ability to connect and communicate with each other. He said that this could “lead to pathways that slow down and prevent normal active interaction between different regions of the brain.”

The excess brain cells are formed during early development in the womb not after birth. This suggests that the changes that are responsible for autism occur earlier than scientists thought.

“Knowing that we have a specific type of defect that occurs very early in development really helps us to focus and sharpen the next steps in research to determine what caused the excess,” said Eric.

This new info paves the way for a greater understanding of the condition, which will hopefully lead to better treatment and support for children and families living with autism.

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