New insights into the causes of autism may be just around the corner according to US researchers studying brain activity in very young children.
The team, from the University of California, San Diego, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of babies while they were sleeping. The results showed that children with autism use different regions of the brain when hearing bedtime stories than those exhibiting more typical development.
This kind of research “is going to tell us an awful lot about how the brain goes wrong in the first place”, says the study’s author and director of the University’s Autism Centre of Excellence, Eric Courchesne, adding that it also “gives us insight into how we’ll be able to help at an earlier age”.
As well as suggesting that the brains of those with autism work in different ways to those of more typical babies, such research may also help to discount some current theories regarding the possible causes of autism. If differences can be found in the brain shortly after birth, then the effects of such things as exposure to harmful vaccines or environmental toxins may be discounted, says Dr. Courchesne.