Autism begins long before birth
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the Allen Institute for Brain Science believe that patchy changes in the brains of children still in the womb are responsible for the development of autism later down the road.
The study looked at post-mortem brain tissue of 22 children with and without autism, all between two and 15 years of age. The researchers used genetic markers to look at how the outermost part of the brain, the cortex, wired up and formed layers. Abnormalities were found in 90 percent of the children with autism compared with only about 10 percent of children without. The changes were scattered in brain regions that are involved in social and emotional communication, and language, long before birth.
Researchers feel that because the abnormalities occur in patches and not across the entire cortex, children who start therapy at a young age may have enough brain plasticity to rewire their brain connections to compensate.