It’s still not known whether people with autism have more or less connections in parts of their brains that normally work in together.
Now a new study suggests the lack of common ground in this area reflects the fact that people with autism have connections that are uniquely their own.
The groundbreaking research could help lead to better diagnosis of autism and improve treatments, the scientists claim.
‘It opens up the possibility that there are many altered brain profiles all of which fall under the umbrella of ‘autism’,” said Dr Marlene Behrmann at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The researchers studied data taken from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) conducted while the participants were at rest.
‘Resting-state brain studies are important because that is when patterns emerge spontaneously, allowing us to see how various brain areas naturally connect and synchronise their activity,’ said Avital Hahamy, a Ph.D. student in Dr Weizmann’s Neurobiology Department.
The control participants’ brains had similar connectivity patterns across different individuals.
However, those with autism tended to display much more unique patterns – each in its own, individual way.
Differences between the patterns in the autism and control groups could be explained by the way individuals in the two groups interact and communicate with their environment.
‘From a young age, the average, typical person’s brain networks get moulded by intensive interaction with people and the mutual environmental factors,’ Mr Hahamy said.
‘Such shared experiences could tend to make the synchronisation patterns in the control group’s resting brains more similar to each other.
‘It is possible that in ASD, as interactions with the environment are disrupted, each one develops a more uniquely individualistic brain organisation pattern.’
More research is needed to determine the range of factors that may cause the unique brain wave synchronisation patterns seen in people with autism, the researchers added.