Saturday, September 24, 2011

Clinic Notes: Different Strains of Autism

In previous blogs I have discussed that obvious variability that exist in the behavior of the children with an autism diagnosis who come to our clinic. The Autism Spectrum ranges from children at one end who are low functioning to children at the other end who are high functioning children with autism and Asperger’s. It has never been clear if we are dealing with one disorder with varies in its severity or multiple disorders. A recent study form the University of California Davis MIND Institute sheds some light on this. In a study that started in 2006, brain growth, exposure to environmental variables, and genetic factors were examined. The 350 children in the study ranged in age from 2 to 31/2. Two sub types of autism were identified. A group of boys with enlarged brains developed normally until 18 months of age and then regressed into an autism diagnosis. Another group did not regress but showed sighs of autism early and had compromised immune systems. The investigators theorized that other subtypes would emerge in future studies. Of course identifying groups early would allow clinicians, such as myself, to individualize treatment plans.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Clinic Notes: Brain Imaging and Autism

There is no biological marker for diagnosing autism as there is for other chronic disorders. This makes research more difficult because we are not sure if our “autism group” is “contaminated” by children with other neurological disorders. Treatment is not hampered so much because these kids need treatment no matter the diagnosis and at this point treatment is pretty much the same for different neurological disorders—treat the symptoms. Researchers at Stanford are using a new Mri technology called called "multivariate searchlight classification." In this method the brain is divided into a three-dimensional grid, and each cube of the brain is examined for its volume of gray matter. Hopefully, this procedure will allow a diagnostically useful comparison between normally developing children and children with autism. Of course, the cost of diagnosis will be phenomenal.