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A new research at Dartmouth College has identified a non-verbal, neural marker of autism. This marker shows that individuals with autism are slower to dampen neural activity in response to visual signals in the brain. This marker was independent of intelligence and offers an objective way to potentially diagnose autism in the future. Current Biology published the results.
Researchers say that it is difficult to determine autism in children. A trained clinician may be able to detect autism at 18-months or even younger. But the average age of a diagnosis is about four years old. So, it is important to have objective, non-invasive screening tools that don't depend on assessing a child's behaviour. People with autism have differences in inhibiting the neural signals in the brain. This underpins symptoms in autism, like hypersensitivity to sensory input, which includes differences in processing visual information.
Researchers used brain imaging to measure the slower rate of binocular rivalry in individuals with autism. With these results, they were able to accurately determine if participants had autism. They were also able to predict the severity of symptoms that were measured using traditional clinical assessments. It was seen that neural data can help predict autism with 87 per cent accuracy.
A mother's womb is the safest place in this universe. But recent studies have proved otherwise. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a neurological disorder impacting normal brain development and affecting the areas of social interaction and communication skills, can develop right in the womb, say researchers of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
While studying the donated brain tissue samples of dead children, clusters of disorganised cells were found in brain areas responsible for managing social functioning, emotions and communications. These activities suffer among autistic children. According to the scientists, these clusters were a result of defects that occurred during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy.
Researchers have cited gene mutations and environmental factors to be jointly responsible for advent of autism in the womb. Abnormal gene activities lead to excessive number of brain cell formation in the brain's pre-frontal cortex. This is located right behind the forehead. This, according to experts, damages the normal emotional, communication and social function skills of brain, leading to autism.
Environmental factors like excessive exposure to pollution and radioactive and toxic chemicals can also cause abnormalities in brain development, say experts. Highlighting late complications in pregnancy to be responsible for autism to begin in the womb, they pointed out that infants exposed to high maternal blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) and lack of adequate oxygen at birth (asphyxia) or any other delivery related challenges are at higher risk to develop autism even before birth.
Here is what you need to do to prevent your infant develop autism in the womb.
Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, especially the third trimester can cause havoc to your child's brain in the womb, thereby increasing the risk of developing autism before birth. Try all means to avoid the toxic chemicals and pollutants in air, work out indoors, keep away from traffic congested areas and more.
Maternal exposure to toxic chemicals like traffic related pollutants, certain metals, pesticides and phthalates during pregnancy increases the risk of autism in the womb. Consult your doctor and get a list of toxic chemicals you need to stay away from. You may also have to limit your intake of canned foods and avoid water bottles made of plastic or aluminum. Also say not to cosmetics and other personal care products containing chemicals.
Radiation exposure during pregnancy tops the list of causes of autism in womb. Electromagnetic pollution from electrical appliances and gadgets at home and workplace can inflict great damage to your infant's brain. So, have a check on the use of electronic and wireless devices during pregnancy to keep your child's brain cells intact.
Several anti-depressants have shown to have a potential link to developing autism before birth. You need to be careful before popping pills during pregnancy.
Pregnancies spaced between 2 and 5 years apart have lowest risk of developing this condition in the womb, showed a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. So, watch the gap between your pregnancy when you plan out for one.
Go for folic acid rich diet or folic acid supplements as reduced folic acid intake increases the chances of autism before birth.
The mother's microbiome, the collection of microscopic organisms that live inside us, can determine the risk of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders in children, says a study published in the Journal of Immunology. Researchers say that an unhealthy microbiome in the mother can make her unborn child susceptible to neurodevelopmental disorders. But, if a particular inflammatory molecule interleukin-17a (IL-17a) produced by the immune system is blocked, it can help halt the development of such disorders in lab mice.
Researchers determined that the microbiome is a key contributor in determining susceptibility to autism-like disorders. They say that if either the maternal microbiome or this inflammatory molecule IL-17a is targetted, this disorder can be avoided.
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