Chemical Changes in the Brain in Autism

Aug 3, 2013
Chemical Changes in the Brain Appear to Differentiate Children with Autism From Those With Developmental Disorders, Study Finds

The cerebral gray matter (GM) chemical changes between 3 and 10 years of age appears to differentiate children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from those with idiopathic (from an unknown cause) developmental disorder (DD), suggests a study by Neva M Corrigan, Ph.D., of the University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues.

The researchers examined cross-section and longitudinal patterns of brain chemical concentrations in children with ASD or DD from three different age points: 73 children (45 with ASD, 14 with DD, and 14 with typical development [TD]) at 3 to 4 years of age; 69 children (35 with ASD, 14 with DD, and 20 with TD) at 6 to 7 years of age; and 77 children (29 with ASD, 15 with DD, and 33 with TD) at 9 to 10 years of age.

There were distinct differences between the ASD and DD groups in the rates of cerebral gray matter N-acetylaspartate (NAA), choline (Cho), and creatine (Cr) changes between 3 and 10 years of age, according to the study results.

“The results from our study suggest that a dynamic brain developmental process underlies ASD, whereas the children with DD exhibited a different, more static developmental pattern of brain chemical changes,” the authors write. “The brain chemical alterations observed in the children with ASD at 3 to 4 years of age likely reflect a process that begins at an earlier stage of development.”

(JAMA Psychiatry. Published online July 31, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.1388.