NASET News Alert

Experts spot structural differences on brain imaging of individuals with autism

May 03, 2024

Experts are inching closer to being able to objectively understand how the brains of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) function differently from their neurotypical peers. 

New research from the University of Virginia suggests that the microstructures of the brains of those with autism differ from those not considered on the spectrum. This, experts involved in the study explained, offers further insight into exactly what is happening inside the brain that causes individuals on the spectrum to process information differently. 

Scientists used a special type of MRI exam—diffusion tensor imaging—to analyze the water that continuously moves throughout the brain and cell membranes, while paying close attention to the myelin and axons. Through this, researchers were able to calculate individuals’ axonal conduction velocity, which offers insight into an axon’s ability to transfer information throughout the brain. 

When comparing the imaging of people on the spectrum to others who are otherwise considered neurotypical, the team found significant differences in the extracellular water and conduction velocity throughout the cortex, subcortex and white matter skeleton between the two groups, with the ASD group showing increased water presence and decreased conduction velocity. Read More