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New Study Links Behavioral Problems in Girls With Autism to Enlarged Amygdala

Behavioral problems in young girls with autism may be linked to an enlarged right amygdala, the region of the brain that helps process emotions and detect threats. According to a Spectrum News report, the findings are based on a study of 300 children with autism between 2 and 3 years old. Christine Wu Nordahl, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of California, Davis MIND Institute, led the study. Nordahl said the findings are significant due to the young age of the children. “Things like anxiety and depression don’t get diagnosed usually until much later, maybe early adolescence or so,” Nordahl said. She and her colleagues evaluated the children using various diagnostic tools, and grouped them into three categories: those with severe psychiatric and behavioral problems and moderate impairment; those with few behavioral problems and little impairment; and those with few behavioral problems and severe impairment. The researchers found that 27% of the children with autism have other psychiatric conditions, with those conditions being significantly more common in girls than in boys. The researchers also found larger amygdala in the autistic children with high psychopathology and moderate impairment. The results of the study were published in January in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. For the next phase of their research, Nordahl and her team plan to test and scan the children again at age 6 to see if the groupings are stable over time. They are also conducting a clinical trial of cognitive behavioral therapy to treat anxiety in autistic children between 8 and 14 years old. Source: https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/enlarged-amygdala-linked-to-severe-behavioral-problems-in-autistic-girls/

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