What’s Your Response to These New Autism Findings?


Researchers at Harvard University and MIT have published a new study suggesting a specific chemical in the brain is linked to autism. Their findings, published in Current Biology on Thursday, say autistic behavior is associated with a breakdown in the signaling pathway of a chief inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA.

Scientists speculate that reduced brain inhibition may be behind the hypersensitivity many people with autism experience, according to MIT News.

“This is the first time, in humans, that a neurotransmitter in the brain has been linked to autistic behavior. This theory — that the GABA signaling pathway plays a role in autism — has been shown in animal models, but until now we never had evidence for it actually causing autistic differences in humans,” study leader Caroline Robertson said in a Harvard University press release.

Robertson and her colleagues first tested 21 people ranging on the autism spectrum and 20 non-autistic people by showing them two conflicting images, one to each eye, according to Medical Daily. To focus on one image, the brain must suppress the other, or push it out of awareness. In this “binocular rivalry test,” the adults with autism were slower to suppress visual images. Researchers then measured GABA concentrations while subjects performed the task and found people with autism showed GABA dysfunction.

“Individuals with autism are known to have detail-oriented visual perception — exhibiting remarkable attention to small details in the sensory environment and difficulty filtering out or suppressing irrelevant sensory information,” Robertson said.

The findings suggest a drug that can boost GABA’s action may improve challenges people with autism face.

A question for our Mighty community: How do you respond when new research is published around the causes and/or symptoms of autism? What does news like this mean for your day-to-day life? Let us know in the comments below.


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