New Autism Study Shows Possible In-Utero Brain Damage

Dr. Drew Rubin

A new study has been released about the possible connection between in-utero brain damage and a higher likelihood of developing on the Autism Spectrum.

Published in August in the journal Neuron, the paper tells of a huge correlation between the function of the cerebellum and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

“Some of the clinical and animal-research evidence for cerebellar involvement in autism has been known for years,” said Dr. Samuel Wang, a molecular biology professor, in another article on the subject of cerebellum correlation. “But this evidence doesn’t fit into the textbook wisdom that the cerebellum controls sensory processing and movement. At some level, researchers have been trapped by whatever framework they learned in college or graduate school.”

Parenting Autism

For years, parents have been advocating for a better understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. There was much speculation and debate about the immunization correlation/causation, and it was one that sparked a lot of fury, anger, and hurt. Parents have lent their experience to that of studies and musings, but many are always thrilled to hear more possibilities.

So what could be done if it really is caused by brain damage in the womb? The paper doesn’t really say, but researchers are still ecstatic to have possibly found another piece to the puzzle.

The paper focuses on social development and the cerebellum, pointing out the way it already works for those without Autism. “There is nothing innately rewarding in any particular expression,” a Daily Beast article states, “so the smile itself does not do anything to stimulate the parts of the brain that respond to rewards and trigger a change in behavior. But over time, the cerebellum coordinates the experience of seeing a parent smile, and other rewards like being fed, and forms a relationship between them. It helps connect the areas of the brain that see the smile with those that signal rewards, over time leading to the development of a child’s ability to understand the social cue.” This could explain many aspects of the Autism Spectrum, including Asperger’s.

Regardless, the findings are interesting and worth discussing. While it’s unclear of just what anyone could do to reverse such brain damage, or if it would even matter, one thing is certain: Researchers are motivated to explore the possibilities.