NEW YORK, NY (April 2, 2008) Autism Speaks, the nations largest autism advocacy organization along with the Allen Institute for Brain Science and one of the countrys leading autism researchers will join forces on a new research grant that will examine the architecture of the autistic brain. Led by Eric Courchesne, Ph.D., Professor of Neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and Director of UC San Diegos Autism Center of Excellence, the grant will allow scientists to examine molecular markers of genetic activity in the brain of patients with autism, providing insight into the biological causes that underlie the disorder.
This unique study analyzing frontal cortex microstructure is aimed at identifying the underlying cellular and molecular defects in the autistic brain. An extensive study of this type has never been attempted in autism, explained Dr. Sophia Colamarino, Vice President of Research for Autism Speaks. This could give us the very first window into brain development in autism, something about which we know virtually nothing.
The collaborative effort builds on the discovery by Dr. Courchesne and others that autism involves sudden, excessive brain growth during the first two years of life. The abnormal overgrowth is especially pronounced in brain regions, such as the frontal cortex, that regulate social, emotional and language communication.
"Such abnormal early brain overgrowth very likely triggers autistic behavior in infants and toddlers, and so the next major step is to discover the reason for this brain overgrowth," said Courchesne. "Once we pinpoint the specific brain cells and genes involved in the abnormal growth, it will be possible to see more clearly what is causing autism, which will more rapidly lead to novel biomedical interventions to improve the outcome for each child."
To discover the specific brain cells and genes that disrupt the growth and formation of these cri
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