Physical evidence of short-range over-connectivity in the outer layer of the brain's cortex in people with autism spectrum disorders has bene provided by a six-year long study of brain tissue.
The study by University of Nevada, Reno psychologist has added to the body of knowledge that researchers around the world are compiling to try to demystify, prevent and treat the mysterious condition.
"Autism is a unique developmental disability," said Jeffrey Hutsler, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"It creates a lot of noise in the brain, so to speak. There was a higher density of synaptic connections, about 20 percent," he explained.
Although this short-range over-connectivity had been hypothesized, Hutsler is the first to examine postmortem tissue samples and provide physical evidence of the condition.
He said his study supports the types of treatments the University is providing at its Early Childhood Autism Program, with early intervention behavioral therapies.
"This is in the layer of the cortex that is one of the last to develop, and a lot of these connections are refined after birth up to about age 4. As you interact with the environment, you sculpt them out," explained Hutsler.
Those with autism are typically detached from their environment. Hutsler said that their interaction with the environment, or lack thereof, may interfere with that sculpting process.
Early intervention with behavioral therapy during the preschool years could aid that sculpting or weeding-out process.
The study was published recently in the journal, Brain Research.