Researchers are trying to discover biomarkers to detect autism at its earliest stage, and a new finding of a unique brain pattern could be a step in the right direction. Studies are supporting the idea that autism stems from genetic changes. A recent study conducted at Stanford University scanned the brains of 20 children with autism ages 7-12 and 20 typically developing children, and found the autistic children showed more hyperconnectivity. This means that signals in the brain are quickly being transferred from sensory nerves to other networks, results in an overwhelming overload. The researchers of the study believe this pattern of hyperconnectivity will help in creating biomarkers for autism. In addition, the researchers created a computer program to analyze the brain imaging data and were able to accurately distinguish an autistic vs. non-autistic brain 78% of the time.
Hyperconnectivity in the brain leads to behavioral and social delays, such as withdrawal and limited interests. However, hyperconnectivity has positive outcomes, such as better memory and focus. Kamila Markram, Autism Project Director at the Brain Mind Institute of the EPFL, was very impressed with the study’s findings, as it supports her group’s theories which suggest,
“The repetitive and obsessive focus that some autistic patients develop toward specific behaviors could be a coping mechanism for this information overload. ‘Because the [autistic] brain is not adaptively focusing on responding to external information, it can focus on a narrow range of interests.’”[i]
This development of a unique brain pattern could make a difference in the diagnosis of autism, as scientists will be able to identify the brain pattern of a child at an earlier age, and therefore allow the child to start early intervention therapies.
[i] “Time” Unique brain pattern could predict autism in youngest children. 27 Jun 2013. Web. < http://healthland.time.com/2013/06/27/unique-brain-pattern-could-predict-autism-in-youngest-children/>