Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or better known as autism are terms used for a group of complex disorders of brain development. The main feature of autism includes difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviors.
In a path-breaking finding, the U.S. scientists have revealed that children with autism have excessive amount of brain synapses between neurons. These extra synapses or brain connections occurs due to a slowdown in the normal brain "pruning" process during development and do not develop as per age in autistic children, according to researchers. The scientists have reportedly come up with a drug that can reduce the extra synapses.
"It is the first time that anyone has looked for and seen a lack of pruning during development of children with autism, although lower numbers of synapses in some brain areas have been detected in brains from older patients and in mice with autistic-like behaviors", David Sulzer said, a study senior investigator, and professor of neurobiology at CUMC, in a Columbia news release.
Synapses are those points in the brain where one neuron or brain cell communicates with another. With excessive synapses, a "brain region that should be talking only to a select number of other regions is receiving irrelevant information from many others", Professor Ralph-Axel Mueller said, of San Diego State University who was not involved in the research, but has done a lot of work in over-connectivity.
The drug in question is called rapamycin with side effects and hence might not be recommended for use in autistic children. According to Sulzer, the finding is a breakthrough as it indicates that autism can be treated upon discovery of a better drug.
As part of the study, scientists compared the brains of 26 dead autistic children and adolescents in the age group of 2 and 20 with 22 dead children without autism. They counted the synapses in a key region of the cortex of causes. The researchers found that the synaptic density among autistic children was 50 per cent higher and sometimes two-thirds greater than that found in the brains of children without autism.