"Autistic Brains Have Abnormal Number of Brain Cells, Study Finds"
This week I came across a study about the number of neurons in an Autistic brain via Robert, a journalist with Asperger's. It was very intriguing and made a lot of sense, but also left me with a few of questions to mull over.
The study consisted of observing 13 brains donated to science of males ages 2-16 (A colossal thank you to their parents for aiding important research, you have my utmost gratitude and sincere condolences). Of the 13 brains studied, 7 had Autism and 6 did not.
What they found was that the brains with Autism had 67% more neurons in the Prefrontal Cortex. The Prefrontal Cortex is a region associated with social, emotional, and communication processing; all of these are well known difficulties for a person with Autism.
What I liked about this study, is that it made more concrete the theory that Autism has a strong correspondence with biological issues; starting even in the womb. The brain does not grown any additional neurons in that region after birth; so for all of the Autistic brains to, exclusively, have 67% more neurons shows that they were born "different" begining even before birth.
The only thing is that there are missing puzzle pieces this fascinating study doesn't address. But hopefully this will be one of the pieces we have been missing. The study doesn't so much confirm that it is 100% related to genetics, but more so that there is some sort of issue that impacts the brain during prenatal brain development. Whether that is a genetic or environmental (or combination) issue, from what I deduce, remains to be seen.
An additional wondering of mine, is whether the other 6 brains studied were entirely Neurotypical. I would be pleased to know what the results of a brain with ADHD showed in the Prefrontal cortex. First to confirm or disprove any direct relationship to Autism. Secondly, if it were to confirm a direct correlation, I'd wonder if that could be the reason parents parents strongly view environmental factors as a cause of Autism symptoms. If that were the case, instead of causing the Autism, perhaps it would be more accurate to say they impacted the severity and presentation of Autism after birth.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this study! I highly recommend reading it, the information there goes further in detail. Are there any questions this study brings to your mind? What would you like to see studied in this field of research?
Jill is an Air Force veteran and mom to 2 boys (one with autism). She currently homeschools both and is pursuing a degree in biology. When their homeschool journey is complete, she plans to teach high school biology.