Children with autism have extra synapses in brain

In a study of brains from children with autism, researchers found that autistic brains did not undergo normal pruning during childhood and adolescence. The images show representative neurons from autistic (left) and control (right) brains; the spines on the neurons indicate the location of synapses.

Children and adolescents with autism have a surplus of synapses in the brain, and this excess is due to a slowdown in a normal brain “pruning” process during development, according to a study by neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). Because synapses are the points where neurons connect and communicate with each other, the excessive synapses may have profound effects on how the brain functions. The study was published in the August 21 online issue of the journal Neuron.

A drug that restores normal synaptic pruning can improve autistic-like behaviours in mice, the researchers found, even when the drug is given after the behaviours have appeared. “This is an important finding that could lead to a novel and much-needed therapeutic strategy for autism,” Via ScienceDaily.

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