Carnegie Mellon And University Of Pittsburgh Scientists Discover Biological Basis For Autism

A team of brain scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh have made a groundbreaking discovery into the biological basis for autism, a mysterious brain disorder that impairs verbal and non-verbal communications and social interactions. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, the researchers have found numerous abnormalities in the activity of brains of people with normal IQs who have autism. The new findings indicate a deficiency in the coordination among brain areas. The results converge with previous findings of white matter abnormalities in autism. (White matter consists of the "cables" that connect the various parts of the brain to each other). The new findings led the researchers to propose a new theory of the basis of autism, called underconnectivity theory, which holds that autism is a system-wide brain disorder that limits the coordination and integration among brain areas. This theory helps explain a paradox of autism: Some people with autism have normal or even superior skills in some areas, while many other types of thinking are disordered. The team's study will be published in the August edition of the British journal Brain and is available online at www.brain.oupjournals.org.

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