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Social Brain' Impaired In Children With Autism

Update Date: Dec 16, 2015 09:51 AM EST

The "social" region of brains in children with autism is underdeveloped, say researchers. Results of their study showed that children who have 'autism spectrum disorder' (ASD) also show 'hyper-perfusion', or increased blood flow to the frontal regions of the brain, which manage and gauge social interactions among people.

The blood flow slows down with increasing development, but continuing hyper-perfusion among ASD participants. It shows that neurodevelopment related to socio-emotional cognition gets much reduced.

"The brain controls most of our behavior and changes in how brain areas work and communicate with each other can alter this behavior and lead to impairments associated with mental disorders," said study author Kay Jann, a postdoctoral researcher in the UCLA Department of Neurology, in his study. "When you match physiologic changes in the brain with behavioral impairment, you can start to understand the biological mechanisms of this disorder, which may help improve diagnosis, and, in time, treatment."

About 17 children and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were studied and compared with 22 non-autistic youths. With imaging technology that had "magnetically-labelled blood water to trace blood flow", they searched for a default mode network among participants matched according to their age, sex and IQ scores.

Study authors located "reduced long-range connectivity between default mode network nodes located in the front and back of the brain" among participants who exhibit ASD. Jann even found that if there is less connectivity, it impairs communication flow between distant parts of the brain.

"The architecture of the brain follows a cost efficient wiring pattern that maximizes functionality with minimal energy consumption," Jann added. "This is not what we found in our ASD participants."

The study was published in Brain and Behavior.

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