Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Too Many Brain Cells Are Sign of Autism

Having a big brain may seem like an advantage at first thought, but new research indicates that it may be one symptom of autism. Boys with autism displayed an abnormally large number of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in social, communication, and cognitive development, according to lead researcher Eric Courchesne, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Diego. Courchesne and colleagues reported in the November 9 JAMA that the brains of seven boys with autism contained 67 percent more cortical cells than brains of boys without autism. Those cells develop in great numbers early in fetal development but are normally removed during the last trimester.

“[I]f future research can pinpoint why an excessive number of brain cells are there in the first place, it will have a large impact on understanding autism, and perhaps on developing new treatments,” said Courchesne. For more about autism, see Psychiatric News.

(Image: Mopic/


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