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Hyper-active Brain May Explain Social Detachment in Autism

Update Date: Jan 31, 2014 06:02 PM EST

Autistic children may be less interested in their social environment because their brains generate more information at rest, a new study suggest.

Scientists found that the brains autistic children generate on average 42 percent more information at rest than the brains of normal children.

Researchers believe the latest study offers a scientific explanation for why autistic children withdraw and detach from their environment.

"Our results suggest that autistic children are not interested in social interactions because their brains generate more information at rest, which we interpret as more introspection in line with early descriptions of the disorder," Roberto Fernández Galán, PhD, senior author and associate professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, said in a news release.

Using magnetoencephalography to record brain activity, researchers found that autistic children's brains at rest generate more information than non-autistic children. Researchers believe the findings may explain autistic children's lack of interest in external stimuli like social interactions with other people. The latest study also quantified interactions between brain regions, such as the brain's functional connectivity, and determined the inputs to the brain in the resting state allowing them to interpret the children's introspection level.

"This is a novel interpretation because it is a different attempt to understand the children's cognition by analyzing their brain activity," José L. Pérez Velázquez, PhD, first author and professor of neuroscience at University of Toronto Institute of Medical Science and Department of Pediatrics, Brain and Behavior Center, said in a statement.

"Measuring cognitive processes is not trivial; yet, our findings indicate that this can be done to some extent with well-established mathematical tools from physics and engineering," he added.

Researchers said the latest study provides support for the "Intense World Theory" of autism, which states that the disorder is the result of hyper-functioning neural circuitry, leading to a state of over-arousal.

The findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroinformatics.

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