Research Suggests Autism Starts in the Womb

little girl runningMany believe that autism occurs after a child is born, perhaps it's something in the environment or choices we make. But new findings have seemed to debunk that. Researchers are saying that autism starts in the womb.


Most kids are diagnosed with autism around the age of 4, but this study is saying that is not when symptoms start. It's before birth -- in the genes that control brain development, and it begins to show itself around 19 weeks gestation.

It involves the cortex of the brain, which is a thin sheet of cells that is vital to memory. In children with autism, these layers may be altered, and researchers found missing patches that were 5 to 10 millimeters in size in the brains of kids on the spectrum. These patches could have different effects on the brain, which explains the spectrum and the varying symptoms of autism.

What's most enlightening about this study is that if it is something children are born with, doctors feel there can be a re-wiring of the brain provided there is early detection. Maybe this study can help autism be detected earlier, and because early intervention helps, then it can be treated with more positive long-term outcomes.

Eric Courchesne of the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, and his team studied samples of cortex from 11 children with autism and 11 typical kids. Their findings that autism starts in the womb give us hope that we can be more proactive in early detection and help kids in the areas they need it most to ease autism symptoms. But other researchers cautioned that they wanted a larger study done of more children. They were able to study and conclude this by looking at the brains of children who have died. This is problematic because parents of children who die -- with and without autism -- don't often donate their child's brain to science. 

This disorganization in the layers of the cortex of the brain, during brain development, that is believed create autism symptoms of different severity can ease with therapy provided a diagnosis comes early. Parents, this is where our intuition steps in. If you feel something is different with your child, speak to your doctor.

What do you think of this latest research? Do you think autism starts in the womb?


Image via Saikom/shutterstock

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