The architecture of the autistic brain is speckled with patches of abnormal neurons, according to research partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study suggests that brain irregularities in children with autism can be traced back to prenatal development .
Distinct patterns of activity, which may indicate a predisposition to care for infants, appear in the brains of adults who view an image of an infant face, even when the child is not theirs, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and in Germany, Italy, and Japan. Seeing images of infant faces appeared to activate in the adult’s brains circuits that reflect preparation for movement and speech as well as feelings of reward.
While the alleged link between vaccines — particularly the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine — and autism has been thoroughly discredited in more than 20 well-conducted studies of vaccine side effects , fears about the side effects of vaccination nevertheless remain a major factor influencing the healthcare decisions some parents make. This has led to an increasing percentage of unvaccinated children in the U.S. in recent years, which in turn has ramifications for public health.
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, however, sheds new light on physiological roots — though not causes — of autism , and in so doing rules out the potential for any link between vaccination and development of the disease. In the study, researchers examined the size and number of neurons in the prefrontal cortex of young deceased males with autism, and compared the data to that obtained from young deceased non-autistic males.
The first high-resolution structural connection map of the human cerebral cortex was published earlier this month in the journal PLoS Biology. The study reveals regions that are highly connected and central, forming a structural core network . Intriguingly, this core network consists of many areas that are more active when we’re at rest than when we’re engaged in a task that requires concentration.