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Research may unlock mystery of autism's origin in the brain
Date:8/22/2007

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. In the first study of its kind, researchers have discovered that in autistic individuals, connections between brain cells may be deficient within single regions, and not just between regions, as was previously believed.

Tony Wilson, Ph.D., lead researcher and assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said he hopes this study will eventually lead to earlier diagnosis and more targeted medications for autism.

Using magnetoencephalography (MEG) brain imaging technology to measure brain electrical activity, the researchers administered a test called the 40 hertz (cycles per second) auditory steady-state response test. The test measures electromagnetic wave cycles and indicates brain cell discharges at the 40 hertz frequency.

This test measures the brains capacity to mimic what its hearing. A healthy brains cells will fire back at 40 hertz, said Wilson. We chose this test because it is a robust metric of how well individual circuits are functioning.

The results were reported in this months issue of Biological Psychiatry.

A group of 10 children and adolescents with autism, and 10 without autism, listened to a series of clicks occurring every 25 milliseconds (ms) for a duration of 500 ms. The MEG measured the brains responses to these clicks.

In the right hemisphere of the brain, which controls attention and spatial processing, there was no significant difference in the groups. But the results showed a considerable discrepancy between the two groups in the left hemisphere, the area of the brain that controls language and logic.

In the auditory area of the left hemisphere, the group without autism delivered a brain response to the 40 hertz stimulation 200 ms after it began. However, the group with autism failed to respond entirely at the same 40 hertz frequency.

Our results made sense. Both anecdotal and behavioral evidence suggest child
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Contact: Shannon Koontz
shkoontz@wfubmc.edu
336-716-2415
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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