A day in the life of a single mom raising a teenager and a child with autism. I believe that it's not what we receive, but what we give away that defines us. I want to give away all that I have learned and experienced in hopes that it will help families raising a child with autism or any disability. This is my candid journal where I open up my world and share my joys, knowledge, lessons, disappointments, challenges, frustrations, fears and successes - one day at a time.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
News Alert: Brain Chemistry Differs in Kids with Autism
Brain chemistry differs in kids with
autism, study finds
These early chemical alterations may provide insight into specific
processes at play in autism, or even hold clues as to how these processes might
By Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter
WEDNESDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Children with autism
exhibit unusual brain chemistry that can change over time, new research shows.
That particular chemistry differs from both children with other
developmental delays and children with typical development, the University of
Washington researchers noted, and it adds to a growing body of evidence that
suggests early interventions can alter outcomes in kids with autism.
support the notion that autism spectrum disorder is fundamentally different
from other developmental disorders, said study author Stephen Dager, associate
director of the university's Center on Human Development and Disability.
"Children with autism showed a very different developmental
course than kids who had developmental delays without autism," Dager said.
"We're hoping to better understand what the processes are so we can
develop more focused interventions that can help to modify these processes to
the benefit of the individual."
The discovery also emphasizes the positive impact that early
intervention can have on children with autism, said autism expert Dr. Ali
Carine, an osteopathic pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio.
"Autism stands as a different type of process than a stagnant
developmental process," Carine said. "We need to identify autistic
children and start intervention when the potential for change is greatest.
Clinically, we know the younger we catch these kids, the more they respond to
One of the researchers put it this way:
"A substantial number of kids with early, severe autism
symptoms make tremendous improvements," said study co-author Annette
Estes, director of the University of Washington's Autism Center. "We're
only measuring part of the iceberg, but this is a glimmer that we might be able
to find a more specific period of vulnerability that we can measure and learn
how to do something more proactively."
Experts estimate that by age 8, one out of every 88 children will
develop some form of autism, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. Boys are four times more likely than girls to have an autism
In the study, researchers used MRI scans to measure the
tissue-based brain chemicals of children at 3 to 4 years, 6 to 7 years and 9 to
10 years. They measured kids who had been diagnosed with autism, kids diagnosed
with developmental delays and kids with typical development.
The investigators found particularly interesting changes in
N-acetylaspartate (NAA), a chemical thought to play an important role in the
development and regulation of synaptic connections in the brain. NAA levels are
lower in people with conditions such as Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury or
The researchers found that at ages 3 to 4, children in the autism
and developmental delay groups had low NAA concentrations in the gray matter of
their brains. However, by ages 9 to 10, children with autism had NAA levels
that had caught up to those exhibited by typically developing kids, while NAA
remained low in the developmentally delayed group.
The results were reported online July 31 inJAMA Psychiatry.
While these findings are illuminating, they do not pinpoint when
autism is likely to develop in children or why it happens, Dager said.
Future research will likely need to investigate children as young
as 1 to 2 years old to capture the first brain chemistry changes that lead to
autism, Carine said.
"They really believe, based on other published data, that
they didn't capture the most dynamic period of children's brain
development," Carine said of the new study. "Age 1 to 2 years old is
the time when parents of autistic kids say their children seemed to stall, or
they had speech and lost it."
Dager and other researchers at the University of Washington are
currently using more advanced MRI methods to study infants considered at risk
for autism because they have an older sibling with the disorder.
"We're looking prospectively at these children, starting at 6
months, to determine if we can detect very early alterations in brain cell
signaling or related cellular disruption that may precede early, subtle
clinical symptoms of autism spectrum disorder," Dager said.