Autism begins in the womb: Study shows

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  1. Autism begins in the womb: Study shows early development of the brain is disrupted in children with the condition

    • The development of the brain's cortex is disrupted in children with autism
    • This disruption occurs while the child is still in the womb
    • The research gives hope that the brains of children with autism could eventually be 'rewired' to bypass the defects

    Autism could begin in the womb, new research shows.
    U.S. scientists say they have new evidence to suggest that the developmental disability begins in early pregnancy.
    Their findings indicate that the early development of the brain’s cortex - the outermost layered structure of neural tissue - is disrupted in children with autism.

    Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Allen Institute for Brain Science analysed 25 genes in the brain tissue of dead children.
    Some of these had autism, and others did not.

    They looked at genes that serve as biomarkers for brain cell types in different layers of the cortex, genes implicated in autism and several control genes.

    ‘Building a baby’s brain during pregnancy involves creating a cortex that contains six layers,’ Dr Eric Courchesne, professor of neurosciences and director of the Autism Center of Excellence at UC San Diego, said.

    ‘We discovered focal patches of disrupted development of these cortical layers in the majority of children with autism.’

    ‘The most surprising finding was the similar early developmental pathology across nearly all of the autistic brains, especially given the diversity of symptoms in patients with autism, as well as the extremely complex genetics behind the disorder,’ added Dr Ed Lein from of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle.

    During early brain development, each cortical layer develops its own specific types of brain cells, each with specific patterns of brain connectivity that perform unique roles in processing information.
    As a brain cell develops into a specific type in a specific layer with specific connections, it acquires a distinct genetic signature or ‘marker’ that can be observed.
    The study found that in the brains of children with autism, key genetic markers were absent in brain cells in multiple layers.

    ‘This defect,’ Dr Courchesne said, ‘indicates that the crucial early developmental step of creating six distinct layers with specific types of brain cells – something that begins in prenatal life – had been disrupted.’

    Equally important, said the scientists, these early developmental defects were present in focal patches of cortex, suggesting the defect is not uniform throughout the cortex.

    The early development of the brain's cortex - the outermost layered structure of neural tissue - is disrupted in children with autism

    The brain regions most affected by focal patches of absent gene markers were the frontal and the temporal cortex, possibly illuminating why different functional systems are impacted across individuals with the disorder.

    The frontal cortex is associated with higher-order brain function, such as complex communication and comprehension of social cues.
    The temporal cortex is associated with language.

    The disruption of the development of the cortex occurs while the child is still in the womb

    The disruptions of frontal and temporal cortical layers seen in the study may underlie symptoms most often displayed in autistic spectrum disorders.
    The visual cortex – an area of the brain associated with perception that tends to be spared in autism – displayed no abnormalities.

    ‘The fact that we were able to find these patches is remarkable, given that the cortex is roughly the size of the surface of a basketball, and we only examined pieces of tissue the size of a pencil eraser,’ said Dr Lein. ‘This suggests that these abnormalities are quite pervasive across the surface of the cortex.’

    The researchers say that researching the origins of autism is challenging because it typically relies on studying adult brains and attempting to extrapolate backwards.

    ‘In this case,’ Dr Lein said, ‘we were able to study autistic and control cases at a young age, giving us a unique insight into how autism presents in the developing brain.’

    ‘The finding that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism,’ added Dr Courchesne.

    According to the scientists, such patchy defects, as opposed to uniform cortical pathology, may help explain why many toddlers with autism show clinical improvement with early treatment and over time.

    The findings support the idea that in children with autism the brain can sometimes rewire connections to circumvent early focal defects, raising hope that understanding these patches may eventually open new avenues to explore how that improvement occurs.

    The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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  2. I truly hope that science can pinpoint the cause of autism. I'm also truly hoping that they are finally able to reveal it's NOT caused by vaccines, enough to convince the general population.

    I'm going to leave my post at that.
  3. I'm not buying this. I wonder if it's something that they are giving to the kids?
    I lived all over Mexico and Dominican rep and you NEVER her of kids with autism or cancer
    But in the US its common
  4. Well, this is research after all. It doesn't become definite until more evidence and support start pouring in. When it comes to studying human diseases or disorders of any kind, the search to find where the problem begin can take decades if not more to have something concrete. Besides it's interesting to see in a different perspective, after all, the brain is an interesting, mysterious organ.

    On another note, not sure what you meant by if it's something given to the kid? I pretty sure there is no such thing as giving something to a kid to cause them to have cancer unless you purposely expose them to carcinogenic agents, though autism can be questionable but I don't exactly buy that whole BS about vaccines. But why certain region has high rate of this disease and whatnot, you have to understand the biology, interaction with the environment, family history, etc. There have been many studies and research done on why certain diseases are more prevalent in one area than others... Interesting reads I'd say.
  5. I'm not sure I buy this either. My beloved older brother is severely autistic but was completely 'normal' up to the age of around three years old. I don't want to enter into any discussion about vaccines but my mother told me that my brother only started to show symptoms/odd behaviours after he has the MMR jab.

    I hope science can eventually pinpoint what causes autism.

  6. i live in south america and neither is commonly heard of either. It's mostly a US thing!! I have my theories on this but they are just that. Theories.
  7. Just to play devil's advocate, Age 2.5-3 is commonly when Autism starts to show it's signs. My ex boyfriend's kid, who actually didn't get most of the vaccines, is autistic and they found out at 3. That's when it's easier to distinguish what is baby/ toddler behavior vs. odd or abnormal behavior. KWIM?

  8. I do know what you mean as that is true in a lot of cases, but my brother really did appear to be totally normal until after he had the MMR vaccine. He then regressed. Obviously we will never know for sure though. My mum did say she had a small bleed at around 7 months pregnant with him, plus she had an absolutely horrific labour - so his autism could also have been caused by other factors.

  9. I 100% agree with you.
  10. It's so frustrating not knowing.. and not knowing (for sure) how we can protect ourselves and our children. I really hope the times comes when we know for sure, without any doubts.. one way or another. :hugs:
  11. :hugs:
  12. It's BEYOND frustrating not to have answers, but thankfully they're trying.

    I think in some countries perhaps it's overlooked. Like here, they used to call anything out of the ordinary retardation. It was research that started changing the diagnoses, etc. . . KWIM?
  13. :tup:
  14. that is interesting. I wonder if it truly is a US thing, and if it is, why? My son has a high level autism, but he is struggling now at 19 years old, because he just doesn't want to be around people.
  15. Considering all the crap that's put in our food and chemicals around us I wouldn't be surprised if that has something to do with it.