Autism May Begin In The Womb, Research Says

A new study has linked the development of autism to the second trimester


 

According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, autism may develop as early as the second trimester of a mother’s pregnancy.  Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are tied to a combination of causative factors such as genes and environment. ASD covers a range of developmental disorders that primarily affect a person’s ability to communicate and interact. 

Researchers analyzed the brain tissue of 11 children with autism and 11 without, focusing on 25 genes responsible for specific nerve cell types. The study found that 90% of the brains of autistic children had differences in areas of the brain that develop in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Ed Lein, a co-author of the paper and investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science said, “The outcome was fascinating. The regions seemed to correspond to the functional symptoms of autism”. The affected regions are responsible for social and emotional communication and language.

The irregularities occur in patches and develop long before birth. They are caused by an interruption during the development of cortical layers during the second and third trimester of pregnancy.

The research team from the University of California–San Diego and the Allen Institute for Brain Science believe that early treatment may be able to rewire the brain and lessen the symptoms of ASD.

Professor Eric Courchesne, a neuroscientist at the University of California–San Diego concluded that, “The findings that these defects occur in patches rather than across the entirety of [the] cortex gives hope as well as insight about the nature of autism”. 

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