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Genetic Abnormalities Found In Brains Of Children With Autism

Aired 3/23/12 on KPBS News.

New research identifies the genetic mechanisms involved in the abnormal brain development of children with autism.

— UC San Diego researchers have identified some genetic abnormalities in the brains of young children with autism. The affected area of the brain is involved in the development of communication and social skills, something that people with autism have trouble with.

Previous research revealed an overabundance of brain cells in children with autism. The new study found out why: genes that regulate brain cell activity are malfunctioning.

UC San Diego's Eric Courchesne said he hopes his research could lead to identifying early genetic markers for autism.

"So if we know exactly which patterns in the brain are abnormal, it might be possible to look for signals of that abnormal pattern of activity in babies who are at risk for autism, and catch babies at risk for autism at a much earlier age," Dr. Courchesne said.

Dr. Courchesne pointed out he doesn't know the reason for the genetic malfunctioning. He suspects it occurs in the second trimester of life.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates about 1 in 110 children in the U.S. have some form of autism.

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