Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Children with autism 'have too many synapses in their brain'

A New study by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, finds that children and adolescents with autism have too many synapses in their brain, which can affect their brain function. Furthermore, the team believes it may be possible to reduce this excess synapse formation with a drug, paving the way for a novel autism treatment strategy.

autism synapses
Researchers found higher synapse formation in the brains of children with autism (right) than the brains of children without autism (left).
Image credit: Guomei Tang, Mark S. Sonders, CUMC
Around 1 in 68 children in the US have autism - a developmental condition characterized by behavioral, social and communication problems.
Exactly what causes autism is unclear, but researchers believe that it is triggered by abnormalities in the structure of the brain that stop it from functioning properly.
In this latest study, published in the journal Neuron, co-author Guomei Tang, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), analyzed 26 brains of children and adolescents with autism who had died from other causes, alongside 22 brains of children without autism.
Of the brains from those with autism, 13 came from children aged 2-9 years, while the remaining 13 came from teenagers aged 13-20 years.
Dr. Tang then assessed synapse density in each of the brains by counting how many tiny "spines" extended from them. The researchers note that synapses are where brain cells connect and communicate with each other. Each of the spines connects with a brain cell through a more

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