Autistic children might have too many nerve cells

Autism is affecting an ever growing number of children it seems and one set of researchers have discovered an interesting link between the number of nerve cells found in some children and autism.

In some research that has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have found that autistic children have about 67% more nerve sells in a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex than children without autism.

The prefrontal cortex is that part of the brain that is responsible for processing things like social skills, communication, cognitive functions, and language; which are all the areas in which autistic children show abnormal development.

This came as a surprise as scientists have assumed that deficits in the social skills of autistic children are typically linked to less nerve cells, or tissue. Instead they found that after studying the brains of seven autistic boys, between the ages of 2 and 16, who had passed away the opposite was the case.

As well the researchers found that the excess of neurons in the prefrontal cortex were not formed after birth but rather during early development in utero. What this suggests to scientists is that the changes responsible for autism are happening a lot sooner than they thought.

The lead researcher Courchesne concluded, “Knowing that we have a specific type of defect that occurs very early in development really helps us to focus and sharpen the next steps in research to determine what caused the excess and hopefully find new treatments that can help children and their families cope better with the symptoms of autism.”

via Know About Health.