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Greater hyperconnectivity in the autistic brain correlates to greater social deficits

As researchers delve deeper into the wiring schemes of the brains of children with autism, more is being revealed about how the density of neural connections within the brain relates to the behavioral manifestations of autism.

New results from the lab of Vinod Menon, PhD, published today in Cell Reports, demonstrate that a greater degree of hyperconnectivity in the brains of children with autism correlates with greater severity of their social impairments.

I traded e-mails with the lead author of the Cell Reports study, Kaustubh Supekar, a postdoctoral researcher, who wrote, “A hyper- or over-connected brain may make it more difficult for children with autism to modulate brain activity levels in response to cognitive demands such as those required while navigating real-world social scenarios.”

Last June, scientists led by Menon, published research demonstrating hyperconnectivity in the brains of children with autism and showing that at least five major brain networks were hyperconnected. They were able to discern associations between some of the networks and certain behavioral traits.

Supekar also wrote, “Our findings suggest that from early ages the brains of individuals with autism develop differently from their neurotypical peers, and this atypical development might contribute to the observed atypical social behavior that is a core characteristic of the disorder.”

These study results may prove useful for diagnosing – and perhaps someday even treating – autism. Currently autism is diagnosed purely on behavioral criteria.

Previously: Unusual brain organization found in autistic kids who best peers at math, More Stanford findings on the autistic brain, Stanford study reveals why human voices are less rewarding for kids with autism, New public brain-scan database opens autism research frontiers, New imaging analysis reveals distinct features of the autistic brain

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