Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Clinic Notes: Too Much Noise in the Brains of Children with Autism

Anyone who is around a child with autism for very long will notice problems in focusing on the relevant aspects of the environment. A recent study by Jeffrey Hutsler, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno provides some answers to why this is so. He examined postmortem tissue samples and found that children with autism have a 20% higher density of synaptic connections in the outer layer of the brain's cortex. The outer layer of the cortex is the last to develop and the connections are formed as the child interacts with the environment. Apparently, the excessive synaptic connections create "noise" making it more difficult for the proper connections to occur. Early interventions with the behavior therapies can help form the appropriate connections between neurons and thereby improve behavior.