Deficit focused

I would love it researchers would look at areas in the brain that have greater activity, too.  So much is focused on deficits – what about the hyper-functioning aspects (I like to call them “gifts”) that so many on the spectrum display????

Researcher IDs Area of Brain Linked to Autism


MELVILLE, N.Y. – A Long Island researcher has pinpointed for the first time brain regions in children with autism linked to “ritualistic repetitive behavior,” the insatiable desire to rock back and forth for hours or tirelessly march in place.

Collaborating with investigators at Duke University and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Dr. Keith Shafritz, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University, unmasked brain regions in children with autism typified by reduced neural activity. In a series of high-tech mapping studies, he compared brain images of children with autism to those of neurologically normal youngsters.

Repetitive behavior is one of autism’s core traits and has driven some parents to extremes as they try to distract a child to engage in other activities.

Shafritz and colleagues used a form of magnetic resonance imaging to explore sites in the brain. They reported their findings in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry.

Mapping the brain constitutes a journey into the inner labyrinths of a three-pound cosmos where countless frontiers have yet to be explored.

In children with autism, Shafritz found deficits in specific regions of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of gray matter linked to all higher human functions, including repetitive behavior. He also mapped deficits in the basal ganglia, a region deep below the cerebral hemispheres.

“We like to think about the research process as discovering clues why people engage in certain behaviors,” Shafritz said last week.

“We were able to identify a series of brain regions that showed diminished activity when people were asked to alter certain behaviors, and were not able to do so.”

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is rapidly becoming a major public policy issue. Federal health officials estimate it affects 1 in every 150 children, touching not only individual families but communities.

School systems lack a sufficient number of appropriately trained teachers; social services departments are overwhelmed by parents in need of support and respite care.

Amid social concerns are the plodding attempts to understand the disorder’s basic biology. Some scientists are scanning the human genome in search of suspect DNA. Others like Shafritz, are exploring the geography of the brain.

(c) 2008 Charleston Daily Mail. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.


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