Autism may start as early as forming neural stem cells

Microscopic closeup of human cells.

Human stem cells forming mature neurons. (credit: Dr. Ariadna Recasens, University of

While autism is a spectrum of disorders, it’s clear that the
more significant cases involve physical differences in the brain’s
nerve cells. Several studies have reported an excess in connections
among neurons in the brains of people with autism. But when does
this happen? Changes in neural connections are key components of
learning and memory, and they can happen at any point in life;
major reorganizations in connectivity occur from before birth up to
the late teens.

Anecdotal reports of autism’s symptoms often suggest an onset
between one and two years old. But a new study places the critical
point extremely early in embryo development—at a point before
there are any mature nerve cells whatsoever.

A series of challenges

Figuring out how autism starts is complicated. To begin with,
it’s a spectrum that might include more than one disorder. You also
can’t know in advance who’s going to develop it, so you can only
look at it retrospectively, after the problems are apparent.
Finally, the human brain is simply not something you can ethically
do invasive experiments on.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Autism may start as early as forming neural stem cells