A recent study led by Dr. Ilan Dinstein of the Weismann Institute of Science in Israel sheds some new understanding on the biology of the condition of autism. The study, conducted on a group of 72 normally sleeping children between the ages of 1 and 3-1/2 years, shows that the two areas of the brain commonly associated with language and communication were found to be out of sync in children with autism.(jpost.com)
“The human brain is split into two separate hemispheres, which are mostly symmetrical in terms of anatomy and function,” Dinstein explains. “In the typical brain, neural activity is correlated across functionally related cortical areas, like those involved in vision, not only during the completion of a task, such as watching a movie, but also in the complete absence of a task, during rest and sleep. It has been suggested that the strength of synchronization between functionally related brain areas in the right and left hemispheres may offer a measure of their functional integrity.”(Science Daily)
Dinstein and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record neural activity in the brains of children with typical development, language delay and with autism. Seventy percent of the children with autism showed specific synchronization abnormality in two brain areas – language and communication. The abnormality showed up in only a small number of the typically developing children and those with language delay.
“We found that the synchronization was different – specifically in toddlers with autism and across the hemispheres (of the brain) in areas related to language and communication,” explains Dinstein. This is significant because delayed and impaired language are defining characteristics of autism, and although the autistic and language delayed children exhibited similar reduced language abilities, the reduced neural synchronization was unique to the autistic group.(Science Daily)
Discovering the abnormal brain synchronization lends hope that doctors’ will someday have the ability to accurately diagnose autism at its very beginning stages. Although more research is needed, Dinstein said that, as a potential diagnostic tool, this biological measure was “a first step.” (Reuters)
Siegel-Itzkovich, Judy. “Brain Disrupted in Autistic Toddlers.” Israel News – Breaking News from Israel & the Jewish World | Jerusalem Post. 25 June 2011. Web. 15 July 2011.
“Out of Sync: Neural Activity Is Disrupted in Autistic Toddlers.” Sciencedaily.com. 22 June 2011. Web. 15 July 2011.
Kelland, Kate. “Study Finds Autistic Toddlers’ Brains Out of Sync.” Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com. 22 June 2011. Web. 15 July 2011.