CAMH Study Reveals Novel Insights Into Brain Networks in People With Autism

Autism is somewhat complex disruption in neurological system which lasts for lifelong and impairs person’s ability of interaction and communication. More than 1 in every hundred people are affected by autism. Autism is classified as a chronic disease. There are different types of autism possible due to differences in environmental and genetic combinations.

The study and understanding of brain networks have immense potential to throw light on how does autism develop with time. This will also help in finding the right treatment for autism.

Dr. Dickie, the leading author of this study and a CAMH scientist has suggested different autism across children who show different impairments. He put forward explanation for this that there are differences in the functioning of brain networks, despite a common or similar diagnosis. There is an increasing awareness among researchers that possibly different subtypes of autism exist due to differences in the brain biology, as quoted by autism expert and clinician-scientist Dr. Ameis, working at the institute of mental health and research at CAMH. CAMH developed a new approach which has been published in the biological psychiatry, which provides a better and efficient way for the examination of the whereabouts of brain networks of the individuals with greater precision.

Different regions of the brain are connected by brain networks, which send signals across the pathways for some specific functions like attention or vision. These networks are located at roughly in the same regions of everyone’s brain. The brains of any two individuals suffering from autism when compared, are found to be different from one another. The difference is less pronounced when brains of any two individuals not suffering from autism are compared. The greatest variation in the location of network was found to be in the attention networks of the brain. In other words, people suffering from autism rather have a more pronounced spatial layout of brain networks than people not suffering from autism.

Dr. Dickie’s Findings

Dr. Dickie stated that they have developed new ways of visualization of the brain’s organization. The team used a new approach called PINT. Using this approach, the position of 6 brain networks of individual were mapped in order to ensure accurately the location of these networks instead of relying upon approximate position. The new approach of PINT has also been applied to obtain a functional MRI scan to study brain of an individual in the ‘resting state’, that is, not doing anything in the MRI scanner. It was earlier suspected by the scientists that there is disconnectivity or very weak long ranging connections between certain brain areas of people suffering from autism. After the application of personalized mapping of the brain, the evidence for disconnectivity dropped.

The study rather suggested that brain networks, which are associated with attention may not just be disconnected, but might be completely displaced among people suffering from autism. Clinical trials of high profile for individuals suffering from autism spectrum disorder which has recently been carried out, showed no therapeutic effect as stated by Dr. Ameis. This new study has recently been made available publicly and now can be applied in brain function studies in autism in order to account for displacement in brain network.

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