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Brain Chemical Changes Identify Children With Autism

Brain Chemical Changes Identify Children With Autism

Changes in gray matter during childhood distinguish autism from developmental delay

FRIDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Changes in the levels of certain chemicals in brain gray matter between 3 and 10 years of age can distinguish children with autism spectrum disorder from children with idiopathic developmental delay, according to a study published online July 31 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Neva M. Corrigan, Ph.D., from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues measured the levels of N-acetylaspartate, choline, creatine, myo-inositol, and glutamine plus glutamate in cerebral gray matter and white matter from 73 children at 3 to 4 years of age, 69 children at 6 to 7 years of age, and 77 children at 9 to 10 years of age. Each group contained a mixture of children with autism spectrum disorder, idiopathic developmental delay, and typical development.

Compared with typically developing children, the researchers found that children with autism spectrum disorder had lower levels of N-acetylaspartate, choline, and creatine in both gray and white matter at 3 to 4 years of age but not at 9 to 10 years of age. The developmental delay group had lower levels of N-acetylaspartate in both gray and white matter at 3 to 4 years of age, which remained lower in gray matter at 9 to 10 years of age compared with typically developing children.

"The results from our study suggest that a dynamic brain developmental process underlies autism spectrum disorder, whereas the children with developmental delay exhibited a different, more static developmental pattern of brain chemical changes," Corrigan and colleagues conclude. "The brain chemical alterations observed in the children with autism spectrum disorder at 3 to 4 years of age likely reflect a process that begins at an earlier stage of development."

Abstract (http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1722813 #Abstract )Full Text (subscription or payment may be required) (http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1722813 )