Extra Brain Cells Discovered In Children With Autism

An overabundance of brain cells isn’t necessarily a good thing according to a recent study children with autism have more brain cells (neurons) and heavier brains.

Researchers for decades have predicted that the condition may be caused by abnormal brain growth and extra brain development. Previous studies found that children with autism have larger heads and brain size.

In their study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers examined the brains of 13 boys aged 2 to 16 whose brains had been donated to science after they died (7 autistic and 6 non-autistic children), using a microscopic technique neurons were counted.

In the study scientists found 67 percent more neurons in the prefrontal cortex of autistic children, the area linked to social, emotional and communicative processing of information. Scientists also found that autistic brains weighed 17.5 percent more on average.

According to study lead author Eric Courchesne a neurobiologist at the University of California, San Diego Autism Center of Excellence said of the findings:

“We didn’t expect to see such a big effect,” while adding, “Since the brain doesn’t generate new neurons in the prefrontal cortex after birth, we know that this happens during prenatal development. So this points to something going wrong with how the brain initially forms itself in autistic children.”

Findings in the study are still very much much in their infancy and researchers point out that the base of study was very small with only 13 children examined.

Do the findings from this preliminary study surprise you?

[Image via Autism]