CARNEGIE MELLON U. (US) â€” The brainâ€™s white matter may explain some of autismâ€™s mysteriesâ€”from communication disorders to restricted interests.
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“In autistic individuals, we can measure the quality of the white matter, and our computer model can predict how coordinated their brain activity will be. This gives us a precise account of the underlying alterations affecting autistic thought,” says psychology professor Marcel Just. (Credit: Carnegie Mellon University)
Autism has long been a scientific enigma, mainly due to its diverse and seemingly unrelated symptoms, until now. The findings also have implications for a number of other psychiatric illnesses that involve white matter deficiencies, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimerâ€™s disease, and could provide a way to relate the anatomical deficiencies to thought processes.
Published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, the research from Marcel Just and his team at Carnegie Mellon University used brain imaging and computer modeling to show how the brainâ€™s white matter tractsâ€”the cabling that connects separated brain areasâ€”are altered in autism and how these alterations can affect brain function and behavior.
The deficiencies affect the tractsâ€™ bandwidthâ€”the speed and rate at which information can travel along the pathways.
â€śWhite matter is the unsung hero of the human brain,â€ť says Just, professor of psychology and director of the universityâ€™s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging.
â€śIn autistic individuals, we can measure the quality of the white matter, and our computer model can predict how coordinated their brain activity will be. This gives us a precise account of the underlying alterations affecting autistic thought.â€ť