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Subtle Differences In Brain Activity Of Men With Autism Revealed

Update Date: Jan 31, 2016 03:13 PM EST
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Adult males who seem to exhibit autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also have subtle differences in their brain activity. Hence, some of their symptoms take them right into adulthood with some of the disorder, report a team of researchers from King's College London. These symptoms may include limited social interactions or "reciprocal understanding". The behaviour may be repetitive while the interests are narrow.

With the help of a novel brain imaging method called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI), also called a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists could identify altered brain connections in patients of autism. They compared white matter networks, ensuring the connection of diverse brain regions and enabling communication between 61 adults with ASD as compared to 61 controls.

Men with ASD showed diverse brain connections in the frontal lobe, which was involved in language development and social interaction skills. They also showed different development of white matter connections in the left hemisphere's arcuate bundle, an area that involved language. Patients of "delayed echolia," a common ASD manifesting itself in repeated words and sentences, also showed some severe differences in this region.

"White matter provides key insights which allow us to paint a precise picture of how different parts of the brain develop during critical periods in childhood," Marco Catini, who participated in the research, said in a press release. "We found subtle brain differences in men who at a very young age had severe problems with communication and social interaction. The differences appear to remain even if they have somehow learned to cope with these difficulties in adult life."

"Our study did not include women and children, so it would be interesting to explore whether similar differences exist within these groups," Catini added. "For example, research has shown that women appear more resilient than men when it comes to autism, so it will be important if this is explained biologically in their brain development."

The findings were published in the Jan. 29,2016 issue of Brain.

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