Cause of autism
7 Healthcast: Cause of autism
When 5-year-old Paul first came to the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Autism, he could not communicate and had serious behavioral problems. Yet after early intervention, he's made much progress.
Dr. Thomas Frazier thinks autism is linked to the size of the corpus callosum in the brain.
"So you can imagine if your corpus callosum is not working right, then the two sides of the brain aren't going to communicate correctly,” said Dr. Frazier.
People with autism typically are not able to process complex social and emotional cues. If a smaller corpus callosum means brain neurons can't develop, it may explain part of the disorder and scientists can start looking for the genes responsible.
"The best way to study the genetic side is not to treat every kid with autism like they have the same disorder. It's to actually look at more specific aspects of the disorder like brain structure,” said Dr. Frazier.
It's hope for Paul’s mom, Amy Witzigreuter.
"This is proof that there are areas of their brains that are different and affect the way they develop,” she said.
Dr. Aletta Sinoff runs the clinic's autism program. She's seen firsthand how early intervention treatment helps many children with autism go mainstream. She hopes Dr. Frazier's research develops a way to actually measure if treatment improves brain connections.
"That would allow us to predict for particular children what treatment works better than others,” said Dr. Sinoff.
While a handful of genes have been linked to autism, Dr. Frazier thinks there's hundreds more yet to be found.
"If in our lifetime we can not only understand and identify those genes but manipulate them to change the outcome of autism -- wow, that's just that just makes everyday working with your child that much easier,” said Witzigreuter.
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