Brain Imaging

Distinct features of autistic brain revealed in novel Stanford/Packard analysis of MRI scans

Source: 
Stanford University
Date Published: 
September 2, 2011
Abstract: 

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital have used a novel method for analyzing brain-scan data to distinguish children with autism from typically developing children. Their discovery reveals that the gray matter in a network of brain regions known to affect social communication and self-related thoughts has a distinct organization in people with autism.

Scientists Reveal That Seeing Eye To Eye Is Key To Copying, With Implications For Autism Research

Source: 
Medical News Today
Date Published: 
August 18, 2011
Abstract: 

In a study published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, a team of scientists from the University's School of Psychology show that eye contact seems to act as an invitation for mimicry, triggering mechanisms in the frontal region of the brain that control imitation.

The results could be the first clues to understanding why some people, such as children with autism, struggle to grasp when they are expected to copy the actions of others in social situations.

Brain Enlargement in Autism due to Brain Changes Occurring Before Age 2

Source: 
Science Daily
Date Published: 
May 3, 2011
Abstract: 

In 2005, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 2-year-old children with autism have brains up to 10 percent larger than children of the same age without autism. A follow-up study by UNC researchers has found that the children who had enlarged brains at age 2 continued to have enlarged brains at ages 4 and 5, but the amount of the enlargement was to the same degree found at age 2. This increased brain growth did not continue beyond 2 years of age and the changes detected at age 2 were due to overgrowth prior to that time point. In addition, the study found that the cortical enlargement was associated with increased folding on the surface of the brain (or increased surface area) and not an increase in the thickness of outer layer of the brain (or gray matter).

Atypical Neural Networks for Social Orienting in Autism Spectrum Disorders

Source: 
Neuroimage, Greene et al.
Date Published: 
May 2011
Year Published: 
2011

Researchers at UCLA used fMRI to examine the neural mechanisms involved in social interactions in autism spectrum disorders in order to provide insight into the social attention impairments that characterize the disorder. Researchers examined children and adolescents with ASD with social and nonsocial cues. Data revealed that in typically developing individuals, there was greater responsiveness for social cues than nonsocial cues, compared to ASD. The researchers concluded that this difference indicated that the autistic brain does not assign the same privileged status to social cues as assigned in the typically developing brain.

Aberrant Striatal Functional Connectivity in Children with Autism

Source: 
Biol Psychiatry, Di Martino et al.
Date Published: 
May 2011
Year Published: 
2011

BACKGROUND:

Models of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) as neural disconnection syndromes have been predominantly supported by examinations of abnormalities in corticocortical networks in adults with autism. A broader body of research implicates subcortical structures, particularly the striatum, in the physiopathology of autism. Resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging has revealed detailed maps of striatal circuitry in healthy and psychiatric populations and vividly captured maturational changes in striatal circuitry during typical development.

METHODS:

Using resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging, we examined striatal functional connectivity (FC) in 20 children with ASD and 20 typically developing children between the ages of 7.6 and 13.5 years. Whole-brain voxelwise statistical maps quantified within-group striatal FC and between-group differences for three caudate and three putamen seeds for each hemisphere.

RESULTS:

Children with ASD mostly exhibited prominent patterns of ectopic striatal FC (i.e., functional connectivity present in ASD but not in typically developing children), with increased functional connectivity between nearly all striatal subregions and heteromodal associative and limbic cortex previously implicated in the physiopathology of ASD (e.g., insular and right superior temporal gyrus). Additionally, we found striatal functional hyperconnectivity with the pons, thus expanding the scope of functional alterations implicated in ASD. Secondary analyses revealed ASD-related hyperconnectivity between the pons and insula cortex.

CONCLUSIONS:

Examination of FC of striatal networks in children with ASD revealed abnormalities in circuits involving early developing areas, such as the brainstem and insula, with a pattern of increased FC in ectopic circuits that likely reflects developmental derangement rather than immaturity of functional circuits.

Atlas Gives Scientists New View of the Brain

Source: 
The Wall Street Journal
Date Published: 
April 13, 2011
Abstract: 

Scientists funded by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen unveiled a $55 million computerized atlas of the human brain Tuesday, offering the first interactive research guide to the anatomy and genes that animate the mind.

A project of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science, the online atlas offers researchers a powerful new tool to understand where and how genes are at work in the brain. That could help them find new clues to conditions rooted in the brain, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism and mental-health disorders like depression.

Visual Detection and Identification More Active in Autistic Brain Than Thought

Source: 
Medical News Today
Date Published: 
April 5, 2011
Abstract: 

Parts of the brains of people with autism are more active in areas that deal with visual detection and identification and less in areas for decision making, planning and execution, and cognitive control, researchers from the University of Montreal revealed in the journal Human Brain Mapping. Dr. Laurent Mottron, at CETEDUM (University of Montreal's Centre for Excellence in Pervasive Development Disorders) believes their findings explain why most people with autism tend to be extremely good at visual tasks.

Less Invasive EEG With Chaos Theory Helps ID Autism Early

Source: 
Medical News Today
Date Published: 
February 22, 2011
Abstract: 

For many years, behavioral testing and observation have been the only way to determine if a child is autistic, often causing distress and confusion for parents. However, now the application of the standard electroencephalogram (EEG) combined with borrowed math from chaos theory, may enable doctors to read brain wave patterns and identify levels of autism one to two years earlier with 80% accuracy.

How Cortical Nerve Cells Form Synapses With Neighbors

Source: 
Science Daily
Date Published: 
December 22, 2010
Abstract: 

Newly published research led by Professor Z. Josh Huang, Ph.D., of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) sheds important new light on how neurons in the developing brain make connections with one another. This activity, called synapse validation, is at the heart of the process by which neural circuits self-assemble, and is directly implicated in pathology that gives rise to devastating neurodevelopmental disorders including autism and schizophrenia.

A Set Of Brain Proteins Is Found To Play A Role In Over 100 Brain Diseases And Provides A New Insight Into Evolution Of Behavior

Source: 
Medical News Today
Date Published: 
December 21, 2010
Abstract: 

In research just published, scientists have studied human brain samples to isolate a set of proteins that accounts for over 130 brain diseases. The paper also shows an intriguing link between diseases and the evolution of the human brain.