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Brain Size of Children Yields Clues to Autism

Study Shows Kids With Autism Have Faster Brain Growth Around Age 1

Comparing Brain Sizes continued...

“Head size seemed to be no different at birth and up to about 12 months of age,” Piven says. “But starting around the first birthday, this was no longer true.”

The finding that the increase appeared to be limited to the surface area of the brain and not the gray matter also has significance.

“Brain enlargement resulting from increased folding on the surface of the brain is most likely genetic in origin and a result of an increase in the proliferation of neurons in the developing brain,” Hazlett says in a news release.

The Role of Genes

Hazlett and colleagues are continuing to follow the children in an effort to learn more about the differences in brain development patterns between kids with and without autism.

Piven is leading the effort to follow children at risk for autism from the age of 6 months.

He hopes to have 500 infant siblings of children with autism in this study before enrollment ends.

Genes play a big role in autism, and roughly 20% of these siblings can be expected to develop ASD, Piven tells WebMD.

The children in the study will be followed closely, with brain imaging and behavioral testing conducted at 6, 12, and 24 months.

“The idea is that by following the trajectory of brain development and behavior in individual children over time we will begin to understand autism better,” Piven says.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Alliance for Medical Image Computing, the study appears in the May issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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