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Early Brain Scans May Detect Autism Traits

A common trait among children with autism is repetition. If there’s something they like, they tend to have a long-standing obsession with that interest and find it hard to detach from it. They also might associate a person or a place with one, particularly memorable instance or a story.

Research is now finding how this happens in the individual with the autistic brain. All brains work through a functional connectivity, allowing different parts of the brain to communicate and work together. These connections dictate how we process feelings, communicate, and so much more.

Certain patterns in autistic brains are believed to be the powerhouse of their distinct personality differences. These brain patterns can be scanned in children as young as 6-months old before their behavior can fairly be assessed.

“We believe that this is one of the first, if not the first, studies of functional brain connectivity in relationship to restricted and repetitive behaviors in the first years of life,” says the lead investigator John Pruett, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The research conducted by Professor and his team is part of a longitudinal research initiative called the “Infant Brain Imaging Study” that is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

To uncover the link between repetition and brain connectivity, Professor Pruett scanned the brains of 167 toddlers while they slept. The children’s caregivers took a questionnaire that measured autistic behaviors in young children on their normal behavior while the team scanned 230 brain regions. The’ objective of the research team was to find links to repetitive behavior through the brain activity.

The research team found out that various forms of repetitive behavior are linked to distinct connectivity patterns among pairs of brain regions. The superior temporal sulcus (STS), which plays a significant role in facial expression recognition and body movements, prior to the study was considered to be a lower functioning region among children with autism. Results from the current study revealed signs of the increased activity in 24-month-olds.

The research team also found ways in which age affects the autistic behaviors. While the 24-month old group reported having an increased brain activity between the visual and daydreaming portions, 12-month olds children had decreased activity. In both age groups, there were similarities in how increasing and decreasing of the brain activity is manifested.

Although Ralph-Axel Müller, Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University in California, didn’t partake in the conduction of research, he emphasized the significance of its impact, “It could suggest why [autism] includes both deficits in social communication and restricted and repetitive behaviors.”

According to Professor Pruett, findings presented by Professor Pruett and his team, are atypical, however, consistent with the past autism research. Whether the brain activity increases or decreases, the communication between daydreaming and attention

still plays a role in restrictive interests and rigid behavior in children at-risk of or with autism.

The research into the brains of individuals with autism has given scientists an idea of why this trait, among others, is so common. Their findings also exemplify that brain patterns in children with autism are different from brain patters of their peers.

Recognizing and understanding these differences might help to identify autism in younger children, opening the door for early intervention.

For more information on this blog post, visit the source: Spectrum News

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