Autism starts in the womb

The incidence of diagnosed autism cases in the US is rising. The CDC reports that 1 of every 42 American boys now is affected by the disorder (CNN).

The school system is responsible for providing services to these children, as the Individuals with Disabilities Act requires. The school system currently spends approximately 8.5 thousand dollars to provide services for each child on the autism spectrum (CNN).

With more children being diagnosed each day, the search for an identifiable etiology and a cure continues.

A recent NPR article highlights a study (NEJM) that suggests autistic changes to the brain begin in the womb.

In the neurotypical children who participated in this study, the cortical regions of the brain were composed of six layers. The children with autism who participated in the study, however, had disorganized collections of cortical cells.

Why is this exciting? We still really have no idea what causes autism and how to treat it. If autism starts in the womb and is correlated to atypical cortical layers, then this might be a step forward in treating. Early intervention might mean better outcomes, especially if future advances in therapy allow children with autism to develop new neural pathways where there are congenital problems.

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Sources:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/03/26/294446735/brain-changes-suggest-autism-starts-in-the-womb

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/27/health/cdc-autism/index.html

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/11/schools-picking-up-autism-tab/

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