Autism Brain Changes Far More Than Previously Thought

Author: University of California - Los Angeles
Published: 2022/11/03 - Updated: 2023/01/04 - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: Most comprehensive research to date studied how autism affects the human brain at the molecular level. The new study finds brain-wide changes in virtually all of the 11 cortical regions analyzed, regardless of whether they are higher critical association regions - those involved in functions such as reasoning, language, social cognition, and mental flexibility - or primary sensory areas.

Main Digest

Brain changes in autism are comprehensive throughout the cerebral cortex rather than just particular areas thought to affect social behavior and language, according to a new UCLA-led study that significantly refines scientists' understanding of how Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) progresses at the molecular level.

The study, published in Nature, represents a comprehensive effort to characterize ASD at the molecular level. While neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease have well-defined pathologies, autism and other psychiatric disorders have had a lack of defining pathology, making it difficult to develop more effective treatments.

The new study finds brain-wide changes in virtually all of the 11 cortical regions analyzed, regardless of whether they are higher critical association regions - those involved in functions such as reasoning, language, social cognition, and mental flexibility - or primary sensory regions.

"This work represents the culmination of more than a decade of work of many lab members, which was necessary to perform such a comprehensive analysis of the autism brain," said study author Dr. Daniel Geschwind, the Gordon and Virginia MacDonald Distinguished Professor of Human Genetics, Neurology and Psychiatry at UCLA.

"We now finally are beginning to get a picture of the state of the brain, at the molecular level, of the brain in individuals who had a diagnosis of autism. This provides us with a molecular pathology, which, similar to other brain disorders such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and stroke, provides a key starting point for understanding the disorder's mechanisms, which will inform and accelerate the development of disease-altering therapies."

Over a decade ago, Geschwind led the first effort to identify autism's molecular pathology by focusing on two brain regions, the temporal lobe and the frontal lobe. Those regions were chosen because they are higher-order association regions involved in higher cognition - especially social cognition, which is disrupted in ASD.

For the new study, researchers examined gene expression in 11 cortical regions by sequencing RNA from each of the four main cortical lobes. They compared brain tissue samples obtained after death from 112 people with ASD against healthy brain tissue.

While each profiled cortical region showed changes, the largest drop off in gene levels was in the visual cortex and the parietal cortex, which processes information like touch, pain, and temperature. The researchers said this might reflect the sensory hypersensitivity frequently reported in people with ASD. Researchers found strong evidence that the genetic risk for autism is enriched in a specific neuronal module that has lower expression across the brain, indicating that RNA changes in the brain are likely the cause of ASD rather than a result of the disorder.

One of the next steps is to determine whether researchers can use computational approaches to develop therapies based on reversing gene expression changes the researchers found in ASD, Geschwind said, adding that researchers can use organoids to model the changes to understand their mechanisms better.

Authors

Other authors include Michael J. Gandal, Jillian R. Haney, Brie Wamsley, Chloe X. Yap, Sepideh Parhami, Prashant S. Emani, Nathan Chang, George T. Chen, Gil D. Hoftman, Diego de Alba, Gokul Ramaswami, Christopher L. Hartl, Arjun Bhattacharya, Chongyuan Luo, Ting Jin, Daifeng Wang, Riki Kawaguchi, Diana Quintero, Jing Ou, Ye Emily Wu, Neelroop N. Parikshak, Vivek Swarup, T. Grant Belgard, Mark Gerstein, and Bogdan Pasaniuc. The authors declared no competing interests.

Funding

This work was funded by grants to Geschwind (NIMHR01MH110927, U01MH115746, P50-MH106438 and R01MH109912, R01MH094714), Gandal (SFARI Bridge to Independence Award, NIMH R01-MH121521, NIMH R01-MH123922, and NICHD-P50-HD103557), and Haney (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, Los Angeles Founder Chapter, UCLA Neuroscience Interdepartmental Program).

Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed publication pertaining to our Autism Information section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Autism Brain Changes Far More Than Previously Thought" was originally written by University of California - Los Angeles, and submitted for publishing on 2022/11/03 (Edit Update: 2023/01/04). Should you require further information or clarification, University of California - Los Angeles can be contacted at the ucla.edu website. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

📢 Discover Related Topics


👍 Share This Information To:
𝕏.com Facebook Reddit

Page Information, Citing and Disclaimer

Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. You can connect with us on social media such as X.com and our Facebook page.

Cite This Page (APA): University of California - Los Angeles. (2022, November 3). Autism Brain Changes Far More Than Previously Thought. Disabled World. Retrieved April 17, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/autism/brain-change.php

Permalink: <a href="https://www.disabled-world.com/health/neurology/autism/brain-change.php">Autism Brain Changes Far More Than Previously Thought</a>: Most comprehensive research to date studied how autism affects the human brain at the molecular level.

Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are never meant to substitute for qualified professional medical care. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.