Make your home page

Unusual brain growth during infancy linked to autism

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Scientists have identified an association between autism spectrum disorder and atypical brain growth during infancy.

The part of the brain affected is called the amygdala. It plays a key role in decision making, memory processing and emotional responses. 

Researchers at UNC Chapel Hill followed over 400 infants between the ages of 6 months to 24 months. They assessed brain growth using MRI scans. Children who were eventually diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were found to have a faster-growing amygdala between 6 months and 1 year compared to children who did not develop the disorder. 

“The faster the amygdala grew in infancy, the more social difficulties children showed when diagnosed with autism a year later,” said lead study author, Dr. Mark Shen, in a previous interview. 

Shen goes on to say identifying amygdala overgrowth before the onset of symptoms could lead to improved treatments and intervention strategies.