A study published in the journal PLoS ONE is a step towards improving the treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with researchers revealing how new techniques could improve the accuracy of scans.
In a study published today, the researchers used a new type of tomography (CT) scanner to scan the brains of 10 autistic children.
“The brain scan was very precise and showed that there were significant differences in the electrical activity of the brain from the control group to the autistic group,” said lead author Dr Sanna B.J. Nijman from the University of Amsterdam.
“When we compared the autistic children’s brain with that of the control children, we found that there was an increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex.
This means that the autistic kids had some sort of cognitive dysfunction, and we think this could be related to the underlying cause of ASD.”
Brain scans in children with ASD are extremely precise.
They measure the volume of a specific region of the cerebral cortex, and show the activity of other brain regions as well as how well they communicate with each other.
“This is very important because it’s not only the function of the cortex that is being measured, but also how it communicates with other parts of the body,” Dr Nijma said.
“For example, we know that autistic people have trouble making eye contact, so we can use this to figure out how much they’re trying to make eye contact.
But it can also show us if there’s an imbalance in communication between the brain and the eye, or if there are other issues that the brain needs to work on.”
The researchers then compared the results of this analysis with the results from a brain scan that was performed by an expert neuropsychologist, who used MRI technology to record brain activity.
This was followed by a series of clinical tests that included a battery of tests to assess the severity of the autism spectrum and the amount of brain damage that the child suffered.
“Our aim was to find out whether these changes in brain activity can help to identify patients at increased risk for autism,” Dr B.N.
“We found that these changes did correlate with the severity and the extent of the autistic spectrum, and that the changes in the autistic brain were correlated with the number of brain lesions.”
The study also showed that the MRI scans from children with autism correlated with a significant increase in brain inflammation in the brain.
“It’s not surprising that the brains in autistic children were damaged in this way,” Dr J.P.
Najuwala, the lead author of the study, said.”[These findings] suggest that brain imaging is an important tool in the treatment for ASD.”
What is ASD?
Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves repetitive behaviours in the face of social difficulties.
It can cause significant difficulties in social interaction and communication.
The brain scans were performed by Dr Jochen Rind and colleagues at the University Hospital of Vienna, Austria.
It is a very different type of CT scanner from the standard CT scanner used in the US and Europe.
“There are a lot of limitations to these scans, including that they don’t have a longitudinal resolution, and the brain is being scanned in very low resolution, so it’s very difficult to see any changes in a patient’s brain in a way that is representative of their brain structure,” Dr Rind said.
The research was supported by the Dutch Ministry of Education, the European Research Council and the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.