The journey towards determining ways to detect autism earlier on shows development. Outcome of a long-term magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research in Chapel Hill, North Carolina has validated that early overgrowth of the brain of autistic children before reaching the age of two.
During the year 2005, Heather Cody Hazlett, Ph.D., from the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, together with her colleagues, did a comparison of the brains of 59 children diagnosed with autism to 38 other children who serve as control group or those without autism. These children in the control group were the usual developing children, those with low IQ and developmental delay. These children's ages ranged from 18 up to 35 months. Such research indicated that those with autism have brains that are around 10 percent larger compared to those with no autism.
The researchers went on to study the subjects even when they were already four to five years old. At that time, 38 of those who are autistic and 21 of those who are not were available for other MRI scans. Through this observation, it was still proven that those who have enlarged brains at age two still continued with enlarged brains even up to four and five years old. Despite this, still, researchers noticed that even though there was really an increase in their brain sizes of those with autism, the rate of growth was at a normal pace. Thus, this indicates that after the age of two, the growth rate is normal already.
More so, children with autism had more than 6 percent of the total brain volume as well as 9 percent of the cerebral cortex volume (containing the newest shoots of neurons). Such part of the brain is the one which receives the signals and other stimuli from the surroundings, processes attention and memory, etc.
Even though past studies indicate that enlargement of the brain and head circumference usually mark autism, it is still unclear as for the time such abnormal changes are set to happen. Thus, this new study prompted science towards another remarkable feat when it comes to this mental condition.
According to Dr. Joseph Piven, a director and psychiatrist of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities, and a senior author of the study, such research suggests that most of the enlargement of the brain of those with autism takes place prior to reaching the age of two. Likewise, this also poses that neuron production is increased in the cerebral cortex during this instance.
Likewise, through this study, the researchers believe that neural mechanisms as well as early intervention or even prevention of autism can be at hand.