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Head Size Tied to Regressive Autism in Boys
Date:11/29/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Boys with regressive autism have a larger head circumference and bigger brains than other children, a new study finds.

The differences in head size weren't detected when the boys were newborns. However, at age 4 to 6 months, boys who went on to be diagnosed with regressive autism tended to have significantly larger heads than other kids, according to the study.

In regressive autism, children appear to develop normally or near normally and then markedly lose language and social skills between 18 and 24 months.

Researchers did not find larger heads and bigger brains among girls with regressive autism or children of either gender with early-onset autism, which emerges by about age 1 year.

Even though the symptoms of regressive autism don't become obvious until children are approaching their second birthday, the findings suggest that whatever processes are occurring that lead to it start much earlier.

"At birth, you couldn't detect a difference. But around 4 to 6 months of age, the kids who had regressive autism started deviating and their brains were significantly larger than the typically developing children," said senior study author David Amaral, research director of the MIND Institute and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at University of California, Davis.

"Parents are often worried that what caused their child's regression is something that happened to them just before the regression takes place. Our data suggests that may not be the case. It's an ongoing process that starts when the children are younger and you only see it when the process has reached a critical stage," Amaral explained.

The study appears online Nov. 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous research has found that kids with autism tend to have accelerated brain growth early in life. This s
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