Search This Blog

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Brain Differences

New research suggests that autism may be different in men and women, and that autism may be different from Asperger's.

The Los Angeles Times reports [h/t JM]:
Do women who are on the autism spectrum have brains that are more “masculine”?

A team of researchers at Cambridge University's Autism Research Center has found striking similarities between the structural anomalies found in the brains of women with autism spectrum disorder and neurobiological characteristics known to be different between males and females in general.
The results, published online Thursday in the review Brain, partially confirm aspects of an “extreme male brain” theory of autism put forth by Cambridge neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues. But other results of the study appeared to shake the theory -- scans of the brains of men with autism didn’t exhibit a discernible “extreme” of masculine architecture.
At the least, the study adds significant evidence that there are fundamental differences between the brains of women with autism and those of their male counterparts, and highlights the need to include more women in studies. Although males are disproportionately represented in the population of autistics by a ratio of 2:1 or 3:1, the gender disparity in research samples hovers closer to 8:1, according to the study authors.
The Huffington Post reports on an EEG study showing Asperger kids have brain connectivity patterns different from those of autistic kids.
"We looked at a group of 26 children with Asperger's, to see whether measures of brain connectivity would indicate they're part of autism group, or they stood separately," said study researcher Dr. Frank Duffy, a neurologist at Boston's Children Hospital. The study also included more than 400 children with autism, and about 550 typically-developing children, who served as controls.
At first, the test showed that children with Asperger's and those with autism were similar: both showed weaker connections, compared with typically-developing children, in a region of the brain's left hemisphere called the arcuate fasciculus, which is involved in language.
However, when looking at connectivity between other parts of the brain, the researchers saw differences. Connections between several regions in the left hemisphere were stronger in children with Asperger's than in both children with autism and typically-developing children.
The results suggest the conditions are related, but there are physiological differences in brain connectivity that distinguish children with Asperger's from those with autism, according to the study published Wednesday (July 31) in the journal BMC Medicine.