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Patches of Disorganization in the Neocortex of Children with Autism

This video has no audio. The architecture of the autistic brain is speckled with patches of abnormal neurons, according to research partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 27, 2014, this study suggests that brain irregularities in children with autism can be traced back to prenatal development.

Source: Rich Stoner, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego

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Autism postmortem brain tissue was collected from NICHD and ATP brain banks.
Several different regions of cortex were sampled.
This example shows a sample taken from frontal cortex.
Thin sections were created from each sample.
Each section was then labeled for a specific cell type using a process called in situ hybridization.
Anatomists reviewed each section for abnormalities.
We identified regions of tissue with abnormal labeling in autistic cortex.
The abnormal labeling spanned multiple layers of cortex.
We call these regions "patches".
From the stack of images we reconstructed entire cortical layers...
Enabling us to see the patches in 3D.
We found patches in almost every sample taken from frontal cortex, indicating widespread distribution.
Further research is needed to understand why the cells are abnormal in the patch regions.