www.iflscience.com | by Lisa Winter
|Photo credit: (Left) Excess synapses in the brain of a child with autism (Right) Properly pruned synapses of a developmentally typical child. Credit: Guomei Tang/Mark S. Sonders/Columbia University Medical Center|
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects about 1 in 68 children born in the United States. In an effort to find out why, a group of researchers led by David Sulzer at Columbia University Medical Center examined the synapses in the brains of children with autism. They discovered that during childhood, children with autism do not undergo regular synaptic pruning, resulting in having an excess. This also identified a potential conversion of genetic targets that could be used to create a new treatment for ASD. The paper was published in the journal Neuron.
Throughout childhood development, regular cellular processes get rid of about half of the synapses the child was born with. Synapses allow neurons to communicate with one another through chemical or electrical signaling. Though some have speculated that excess synapses could be a sign of autism, there had not been any studies on the matter until now. Read more