Autism Speaks® Spotlights UCLA Brain Research

Amy Long Carrera, MS, RD, CNSC, CWCMS
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
04/20/16  8:49 AM PST
huntington's disease

Autism affects a person’s ability to communicate with others, respond to sensory information from the outside world and regulate emotion. Our webinar presenter, Dr Aarti Nair, is paving the way through her autism research to learn more about how autism develops and how to combat its effects on the brain. Read more about her work at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center to help children and young adults and their families cope with this condition.


From Autism Speaks

The thalamus is a crucial deep-brain structure involved in processing incoming information such as vision, hearing and movement. The thalamus sends this sensory information to specific regions within the brain’s outer layer – the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex processes the information and sends feedback to the thalamus. This two-way communication between the cortex and the thalamus makes it possible for a person to respond to incoming information.

Prior brain imaging studies had identified highly specific connection patterns between the thalamus and the cerebral cortex in the neurotypical brain. However, scientists had done little imaging research on the connections between the thalamus and the cortex in people who have autism.

Autism Research Findings

Our autism research findings suggested that, in children and teens affected by autism, the pathways connecting the cerebral cortex and thalamus develop in a way that interferes with communication between these two parts of the brain.

The changes associated with early brain overgrowth may help explain a wide range of impairments that affect many people with autism. These include social communication difficulties, sensory challenges and issues with self-regulation. Along these lines, our findings are consistent with growing evidence that changes in brain connectivity, or “wiring,” play a big role in the sensory and motor challenges faced by many children and adults on the autism spectrum.

Read the full article at Autism Speaks

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