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The brains of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

A part of our population lives isolated in a particular universe. The brains of children with autism spectrum disorder are characterized by an excess of neuronal connections, where it is very difficult to manage and understand the stimuli that surround them.

If the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder were a house, it would be a home filled with noise in every room., with complex wiring and walls very sensitive to almost any stimulus. This excess of synapses or neuronal connections generates very varied and particular alterations in each child, so that there are rarely two similar cases.

It doesn’t matter that science advances. It is of no use that every year we learn more data about these neurological developmental disorders that affect a significant part of our population. The lack of awareness, the stereotypes and the erroneous images that are held about them mean that we miss out on much of what this group can offer us.

Children and adolescents with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) can have rigid behavior that can test us, there is no doubt. They may have a privileged mind or present serious intellectual deficits. However, despite this enigmatic world in which they are so often suspended, They surprise us with their strengths, sensitivities, needs and affections.

Their families admire us in turn.. That tireless love and always full of energy that fights not only against stereotypes, but also tries to create alliances with the rest of social agents: doctors, specialists, teachers, psychologists and other groups completely dedicated to these children.

Therefore, One way to help them is by understanding a little better that internal reality that happens in their brains.in those minds that at a given moment in their development were suspended at a particular point of no return. Let’s see it below.

“I hear you better when I’m not looking at you. Eye contact is uncomfortable. “People will never understand the battle I face to be able to do this.”

-Wendy Lawson, 1998-

Hyperconnectivity in the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder

A revealing study was conducted in 2014 at Columbia University. The data was published in the magazine Neuron and they explained to us two aspects that were as interesting as they were hopeful.

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The first refers to that particularity of the brain of children with autism spectrum disorder already mentioned: the presence of an excess of synapses or connections between neuronal cells. The second has to do with an experimental treatment that could regulate this hyperconnectivitythat unique brain alteration that occurs before 3 years of life.

Likewise, we cannot ignore that in addition to this synaptic singularity, There are other associated problems, such as alterations in communication between various brain areas.. Let us therefore analyze each characteristic in detail.

The problem with synaptic pruning

From our embryonic stage until approximately 2 years of age, an amazing process occurs in our brain: synaptogenesis.. In this stage, up to 40,000 new synapses are created per second.

During these months, children have more neurons than they need. Therefore, Little by little, and as the brain becomes specialized, the most useful connections will be myelinated, and the rest will be eliminated.This synaptic pruning occurs mainly in the cerebral cortex. In this way, the processes that regulate executive functions such as thinking, analysis, reflection, attention are strengthened and specialized… Once adolescence arrives, pruning eliminates almost half of these cortical synapses. In the study carried out in the Columbia University, It could be seen that in the case of children with ASD, this synaptic pruning only reached 16% and not 50%.

The corpus callosum and brain communication

The brains of children with autism spectrum disorder present another particularly striking problem. In this case, It is related to a structure that is as relevant as it is significant: the corpus callosum.

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This structure is key for communication between different regions of the brain. Lynn Paul, a researcher at the California Institute of Technology, points out that various alterations can be seen in the corpus callosum of children with autism. Something like this implies, among other things, having problems in everyday social interactions, failing to record various types of information, misunderstanding things and presenting a more rigid mental approach.

Heterogeneity in the brain of children with autism spectrum disorder

Studies such as the one carried out at Yonsei Medical University in Seoul tell us that neuroimaging findings are very heterogeneous. It is clear that there are structural and functional anomalies of brain development in children with ASD, and that these are very significant. However, Rarely can two brains be seen alike.

This indicates that Each child will undoubtedly show behavior, deficits and particularities within the autism spectrum itself. There are also genetic bases that affect neuronal circuits and the way in which brain regions communicate, so that there will be children with greater intellectual potential and others with more serious problems in establishing even communicative processes. However, the brain of children with autism spectrum disorder It mostly shows alterations when processing social and emotional stimuli.This does not mean that they do not feel emotions, quite the opposite. They need them, and they also need to feel loved, supported and validated. However, they do not know how to react to that type of stimulus.

Conclusion

The mTOR protein is currently being investigated.which, according to various analyses, would hinder that synaptic pruning so necessary for the brain to specialize and create stronger neuronal connections.

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However, as of today there is nothing conclusive. Therefore, We can only continue delving deeper into the topic and limit ourselves to knowing the particular needs of each child and respond in the best way to adjust to their particular characteristics.

Fortunately We increasingly have more specialized professionals on the subject, concerned about that 2% of the population and committed in turn to the rest of society, so that we understand the reality of this group much better.

Because let’s remember, they may seem listless and elusive. They may not like us touching them or even looking at them. However, They are there and they love us, they need us and they smile with enthusiasm from those mental rooms in those who live in the middle of this noisy world that is too full of stimuli for them.

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All cited sources were reviewed in depth by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, validity and validity. The bibliography in this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

Stephanie H. Ameis, Jason P. Lerch, Margot J. Taylor, A Diffusion Tensor Imaging Study in Children With ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, OCD, and Matched Controls: Distinct and Non-Distinct White Matter Disruption and Dimensional Brain-Behavior Relationships. American Journal of Psychiatry, 2016; appi.ajp.2016.1 DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.15111435

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