Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Weak synchronization in toddler brains may be a biological marker for autism

Date:
July 27, 2011
Source:
Weizmann Institute of Science
Summary:
A finding that ties weak synchronization in brain activity to autism could lead to earlier diagnosis of the disorder.

As compared to the control brain (top), the autistic brain (bottom) shows weaker inter-hemispheric synchronization in several areas, particularly the superior temporal gyrus (light blue) and the inferior frontal gyrus (red).
Credit: Image courtesy of Weizmann Institute of Science

The biological causes of autism are still not understood. A diagnosis of autism is only possible after ages three or four; and the tests are subjective, based on behavioral symptoms. Now, in research that appeared in Neuron, scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, San Diego have found, for the first time, a method that can accurately identify a biological sign of autism in very young toddlers. By scanning the brain activity of sleeping children, the scientists discovered that the autistic brains exhibited significantly weaker synchronization between brain areas tied to language and communication, compared to that of non-autistic children.

"Identifying biological signs of autism has been a major goal for many scientists around the world, both because they may allow early diagnosis, and because they can provide researchers with important clues about the causes and development of the disorder," says postdoctoral fellow Dr. Ilan Dinstein, a member of the group of Prof. Rafael Malach, who headed this study in the Weizmann Institute's Neurobiology Department. While many scientists believe that faulty lines of communication between different parts of the brain are involved in the spectrum of autism disorders, there was no way to observe this in very young children, who are unable to lie still inside an fMRI scanner while they are awake.

But work by Malach's group and other research groups pointed to a solution. Their studies had shown that even during sleep, the brain does not actually switch off. Rather, the electrical activity of the brain cells switches over to spontaneous fluctuation. These fluctuations are coordinated across the two hemispheres of the brain such that each point on the left is synchronized with its corresponding point in the right hemisphere.

In sleeping autistic toddlers, the fMRI scans showed lowered levels of synchronization between the left and right brain areas known to be involved in language and communication. This pattern was not seen either in children with normal development or in those with delayed language development who were not autistic. In fact, the researchers found that this synchronization was strongly tied to the autistic child's ability to communicate: The weaker the synchronization, the more severe were the symptoms of autism. On the basis of the scans, the scientists were able to identify 70% of the autistic children between the ages of one and three.

Dinstein said, "This biological measurement could help diagnose autism at a very early stage. The goal for the near future is to find additional markers that can improve the accuracy and the reliability of the diagnosis."

Prof. Rafael Malach's research is supported by the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Neurosciences, which he heads; the Nella and Leon Benoziyo Center for Neurological Diseases; the Carl and Micaela Einhorn-Dominic Brain Research Institute; the Friends of Dr. Lou Siminovitch; and the S. and J. Lurje Memorial Foundation. Prof. Malach is the recipient of the Helen and Martin Kimmel Award for Innovative Investigation. Prof. Malach is the incumbent of the Barbara and Morris L. Levinson Professorial Chair in Brain Research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Weizmann Institute of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ilan Dinstein, Karen Pierce, Lisa Eyler, Stephanie Solso, Rafael Malach, Marlene Behrmann, Eric Courchesne. Disrupted Neural Synchronization in Toddlers with Autism. Neuron, 2011; 70 (6): 1218 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.04.018

Cite This Page:

Weizmann Institute of Science. "Weak synchronization in toddler brains may be a biological marker for autism." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725091724.htm>.
Weizmann Institute of Science. (2011, July 27). Weak synchronization in toddler brains may be a biological marker for autism. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725091724.htm
Weizmann Institute of Science. "Weak synchronization in toddler brains may be a biological marker for autism." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725091724.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Losing Sleep Leaves You Vulnerable To 'False Memories'

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A new study shows sleep deprivation can make it harder for people to remember specific details of an event. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins