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The Brain’s Emotional Hub & Autism




Mom with autistic son

Each year we wear light blue in the month of April, to bring awareness across the globe to people living with Autism. 

As we are currently in Autism Awareness month, let’s look at the effect autism has on the emotions hub of the brain, the Amygdala.

The Amygdala and Autism

The Amygdala is the emotions hub of all humans’ brains and governs each of our emotions. Research has found that in the cases of young children with autism, they seem to have an unusually high number of neurons in this area.

These neurons seem to have created an excess of connections to other cells in the brain, but as the children grow, these additional neurons and connections seem to disappear.

The Impact of These Findings

These recent findings seem to tie on with the brain imaging done on children with Autism, which shows an enlarged Amygdala in younger children, which gradually assumes the normal size of an Amygdala as these children age.

This new discovery will eventually lead to light being shed on the mechanisms of the series of changes that occur in the brain size and connectivity found in these brain image studies.

This enlarged Amygdala seems to imply that children with autism have been born with an excess of brain cells and connections, and it is being found in most brain scans being done on children with autism.

In brains studied from individuals who do not display Autism signs, the number of neurons increases on average by 11% from youth to adulthood. 

While the brains studied from Adults with Autism show that they have 17% fewer neurons in their amygdala then children with autism do.

While the brains of children with Autism show 11% more neurons than those brains of children without autism. 

This number slowly decreases over time until they reach adulthood, when they will have roughly 20% fewer neurons than the brains of those adults without autism. By the time they reach retirement age they have also dropped slightly, but no significant changes are viewed over the course of the years.

The Neuron Problem

The drop-in neurons found in the Amygdala of adults with autism seems to stem from a natural neuronal death or the end of the maturing process. 

The decrease in neurons may be from loss of neurons and not actually from the stalling of the maturing process of these neurons. 

This neuron issue can lead to the in ability to process simple things, something fun like Aussie sports betting could seem to be an overload of information.

Children with autism seem to have an excess of neurons with mushroom like protrusions that connect these neurons to other neurons, with these connections slowly dropping over time.

While children without autism have fewer of these connections but do not loose them over time, keeping these neurons at a stable amount throughout their lives

The Neurons that Connect

Every brain starts out with many more connections than they need; these are eventually pruned down to what we need. 

In children with autism the issue may be that this pruning does not occur or has been overwhelmed by the large amount of additional connections.

The result seems to be that children with autism have brains hyper connected, which can lead to these cells becoming stressed and dying. Further study in this area could lead to a much better understanding of Autism.

*The research on this subject was first published in 2016 at the Society for Neuroscience Annual meeting but has had recent additions added to the matter in 2018.



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