Autism's Perplexing Puzzle

"Lange-Lainhart Test” recognized in exciting new Autism study

(RxWiki News) Researchers are using a new MRI technology to study the anatomical differences in the brains of people with Autism compared with the brains of people without Autism.

The newly developed MRI technique called the Lange-Lainhart Test, allowed researchers to study two separate areas of the brain, the superior temporal gyrus (STG) and temporal stem (TS), and found differences between autistic brains and non-autistic brains in six different types of measurements. They write, "These six multivariate measurements possess very high ability to discriminate individuals with autism from individuals without autism with 94% sensitivity, 90% specificity, and 92% accuracy in our original and replication samples."

dailyRx Insight: Understanding the anatomy of autism may soon offer hopeful treatments.

The MRI technique called diffusing tensor imaging (DTI), detects how easily water diffuses along the axons , the long connectors that link neurons to other neurons and tissue. The DTI takes an image which highlights differences in the patterns of these pathways. The study focused on two brain areas associated with language, social and emotional functioning.

Once the anatomy for the molecular pathways which underlie autism are uncovered, then researchers can target these pathways to develop treatment which goes beyond merely behavioral modifications.

Recent statistics suggest that 1 out of every 110 children born every year in the United States will be diagnosed with some form of an autism spectrum disorder, and that currently up to one half of one percent of the population, or 1.5 million people, have been diagnosed. Boys are three times as likely to be affected as girls. Autism is a complex developmental disorder that causes impaired social interaction and communication, as well as causing restricted and sometimes repetitive behavior. Symptoms are suspected when a child around 18 months has delayed speech development, and has difficulty playing with other children. Genetic causes are suspected to be a large factor, as well as some environmental causes, but a definitive cause is not known. Treatment consists of several different types of therapy geared towards each patient's needs, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, and behavioral analysis and modification. Some medications may be appropriate such as anti-anxiety medicatinos (Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax), medications for hyperactivity ((ex. Concerta, Ritalin, Strattera), and risperidone (Risperdal) for irritability and aggression.

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Review Date: 
March 24, 2011