Autistic children avoid eye contact and tend to be withdrawn. A new study has shown the connection between the extents of impaired social behavior, the sign of autism, and the reduction in the size of the amygdala, the portion of the brain in charge of response to emotions. This has tickled scientists' thinking, to probe if the brain in autistic patients is overly strained that it begins to dig its own grave, by igniting a battle with its own cells.
To understand the connection better, Richard Davidson and his team at the University of Wisconsin in Madison compared the size of amygdala size with autism. Taking MRI scans of 28 male autistic participants, in the age group 8 to 25 years, scientists measured the volume of their amygdala.
The researchers also assessed, whether the participants put off eye contact, which is a common indicator of autism. Next, the scientists compared the degree of avoidance to eye contact with the patient's age as well as the size of the amygdala. The finding brought to light that the badly affected autistic patients were also much older in age among the study group and had the smallest amygdala in their brains.
The results corroborate the earlier theory that an overly excited amygdala in young autistic patients may instigate cell death and the part of the brain may actually shrink in size as the patient ages, when autism takes on a more severe form. Researchers wish to study the cells in greater detail to obtain further clarity about the finding.