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New brain imaging and computer modeling predicts autistic brain activity and behavior
Date:3/6/2012

PITTSBURGH New research from Carnegie Mellon University's Marcel Just provides an explanation for some of autism's mysteries from social and communication disorders to restricted interests and gives scientists clear targets for developing intervention and treatment therapies.

Autism has long been a scientific enigma, mainly due to its diverse and seemingly unrelated symptoms until now.

Published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, Just and his team used brain imaging and computer modeling to show how the brain's white matter tracts the cabling that connects separated brain areas are altered in autism and how these alterations can affect brain function and behavior. The deficiencies affect the tracts' bandwidth the speed and rate at which information can travel along the pathways.

"White matter is the unsung hero of the human brain," said Just, the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology within CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and director of the university's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging. "In autistic individuals, we can measure the quality of the white matter, and our computer model can predict how coordinated their brain activity will be. This gives us a precise account of the underlying alterations affecting autistic thought."

These findings build on Just's 2004 influential "Frontal-Posterior Underconnectivity Theory of Autism," which first discovered and explained that the synchronization of the activation between frontal and posterior brain areas is lower in autism. Since then, Just and his team have used more advanced imaging technologies, particularly diffusion imaging of white matter and sophisticated computer models to uncover that the white matter is also altered in autism. Using their computer model, they can relate the poorer quality of the white matter connecting frontal and posterior brain areas to the poorer synchronization in the frontal and posterior
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Contact: Shilo Rea
shilo@cmu.edu
412-268-6094
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert  

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