It's incredibly frustrating that there are more questions than answers when it comes to autism. So many theories, such a large spectrum. We can all agree that more needs to be done. More investigating. More services. More. Congress is even looking into why 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism -- they also discussed the highly-contested autism/vaccine link.
But a new study has revealed that some children are born with an increased predisposition to the developmental disorder, and it's preemies that are at risk. Babies with low birth weight and enlarged ventricles in the brain were more likely to be diagnosed with autism.
Early detection could help not only with children who would benefit from certain services and therapies, but also help with further research at the onset, which ideally would lead to a cure.
Michigan State University led the study that discovered low-birth weight babies with a special brain abnormality are seven times more likely to be diagnosed with autism later in life. All of these low-birth weight babies received a cranial ultrasound just after birth, which revealed enlarged ventricles. These are cavities in the brain that store spinal fluid. This means there is a loss of white matter, which is a brain tissue.
Tammy Movsas, lead author of the study, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at MSU, and medical director of the Midland County Department of Public Health told Science Daily:
For many years there's been a lot of controversy about whether vaccinations or environmental factors influence the development of autism, and there's always the question of at what age a child begins to develop the disorder. What this study shows us is that an ultrasound scan within the first few days of life may already be able to detect brain abnormalities that indicate a higher risk of developing autism.
Despite this, I'm still not completely, without a doubt convinced it has nothing to do with vaccines or environmental factors or being a low-birth weight baby. It could be that there is more than one cause; that there is some cocktail of circumstances that puts some kids on the spectrum. I'm still left with more questions than answers, but I'm hopeful these findings help.
The study's co-author Nigel Paneth, an MSU epidemiologist, said:
This study suggests further research is needed to better understand what it is about loss of white matter that interferes with the neurological processes that determine autism. This is an important clue to the underlying brain issues in autism.
There is already research that suggests children born early or late tend to have severe symptoms of autism.
The puzzle. It's being put together. Not as fast as I would like, but hopefully the questions we all have will start to get answers.
What do you think of this study?
Image via Raphael Goetter/Flickr