Researchers at the University of North Carolina used MRI brain scans to look at the area of the brain called the amygdala, which was on average 13 percent larger in young children with autism. The amygdala helps individuals process faces and emotions. The size of this specific part of the brain and may help experts pinpoint when autism could first develop. “We believe that children with autism have normal-sized brains at birth but at some point, in the latter part of the first year of life, it [the amygdala] begins to grow in kids with autism. And this study gives us insight inside the underlying brain mechanism so we can design more rational interventions,” said lead study author Dr. Joseph Piven. “Once we understand the neurological circuits, we may be able to detect if a child has problems in those circuits as early as 6 months of age,” said Piven. “If we are able to combine those things, we can better predict and guide interventions. We need to let the pattern of early brain development guide us to predict who is at higher risk and who would benefit from early intervention.”
Dr. Joseph Piven will be a key speaker key speaker at 2010 International Autism Conference in Jerusalem, Israel. The conference, titled “Autism: A Global Problem,” will be held the week of February 17 to 19 at the ICC.
Autism experts say such findings are critical in developing new ways to treat and diagnose autism earlier. The study was published in the latest Archives of General Psychiatry and to watch a video of the findings, click here.