Chemical Changes in Brain Identify Autism
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- Children with autism spectrum disorders have chemical changes in the brain between the ages of 3 and 10 that distinguish them from children with other forms of developmental delay.
- At ages 3-4, children with ASD had lower concentrations of N-acetylaspartate, choline, and creatine, in both white and gray matter, although those lower concentrations were no longer seen at ages 9 and 10″
Canavan disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion. When both parents are carriers, there is a 25% chance of having an affected child. Genetic counseling and genetic testing is recommended for families with two parental carriers.
Canavan disease is caused by a defective ASPA gene which is responsible for the production of the enzyme aspartoacylase. This enzyme breaks down the concentrated brain molecule N-acetyl aspartate. Decreased aspartoacylase activity prevents the normal breakdown of N-acetyl aspartate, and the lack of breakdown somehow interferes with growth of the myelin sheath of the nerve fibers in the brain. The myelin sheath is the fatty covering that surrounds nerve cells and acts as an insulator, which allows for efficient transmission of nerve impulses.
Symptoms of Canavan disease, which appear in early infancy and progress rapidly, may include mental retardation, loss of previously acquired motor skills, feeding difficulties, abnormal muscle tone (i.e., floppiness or stiffness), poor head control, and megalocephaly (abnormally enlarged head). Paralysis, blindness, or seizures may also occur.
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