A recent study has led to researchers finding a striking difference in neuronal growth in the brain region between autistic and their normal peers.
The researchers based out of UC Davis Institute have found brain neurons, aka amygdala, play an important role in governing emotional and social behaviors of an individual. However, amygdala phenomenon takes a back-step and doesn’t happen in an individual with autism.
That said, children with autism have a large presence of neurons, early in their life, which tend to lose steam as they transition into their adulthood.
Amygdala is enclosed in the nuclei of the human brain that helps in detecting danger and assists the brain in regulating social interactions and anxiety. The dysfunctions of amygdala neurons have an underlying link with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, including but not limited schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and autism.
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Amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of matter that is found in the inner region of cerebral hemisphere and is primarily involved with how an individual experiences his/her emotions.
Cynthia Schumann explains, “The amygdala can be considered as a unique structure of the brain that grows progressively when a child transitions into his/her adolescent stage.”
It is a region responsible to help one become emotionally and socially mature, says Schumann.
Cynthia Schumann is an associate professor at UC Davis Institute and has authored the study.
Schumann comments, “Deviations from normal paths of developments can have a profound impact on an individual’s behavior.”
To get deeper insights, the team analyzed 52 human postmortem brains. The analyzed brains consisted of both ASD and neurotypical and were in the age bracket of 2 to 49 years.
Schumann says, “We were taken aback by the findings of the data that clearly showed greater than 30 percent of amygdala increase in typical brains in comparison to autistic brains.”
However, in the autistic brains, the results were completely opposite. High numbers of brain-neurons were present in children with autism. However, they tend to lose out the neuron count as they transition into their adolescent stage from childhood.
Schumann says, “It is unclear at this stage of finding if a large presence of amygdala neurons in autistic individuals could be attributed to the loss of the neurons in later stages.”
However, it is possible that having a large number of neurons contributes to increased anxiety levels and other notable challenges that limit social interactions of an individual. This leads to increased activity on the human brain eventually leading to neuronal loss.
Nevertheless, the team is hopeful of their explanation about how amygdala changes throughout adolescence state. This will help in having better interventional strategies while having symptoms such as anxiety among others treated in autistic individuals.