fMRI reveals neurotransmitter imbalance and brain dysconnectivity in autistic patients

A team of researchers out of the University of Missouri could have discovered two tests which could help guide physicians on how to better treat the areas of the brain responsible for language and communication. Researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) and proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (H-MRS) to identify a link between brain connectivity and neurotransmitter imbalance. These are the two regions of the brain responsible for causing difficulties with social communication among young children with autism.

Autism MRIOne of the issues with approaching treatment of autism is there are many subtypes and many different genes and potentially other factors that contribute to the disorder,” said David Beversdorf, MD, a professor of radiology, neurology, and psychology at the MU School of Medicine and the Thompson Center, in a prepared statement. “If you have a treatment that works in one subpopulation, it might not work in another. However, if we can determine why that is, we can pursue individualized approaches and make a lot more progress in developing new treatments.

The study used fourteen adolescents and adults who were diagnosed with autism and twelve control participants. They all underwent fMRI brain scans and answered questionnaires to rate symptoms, the severity of symptoms, and social/language competence skills. The fMRIs revealed a potential link between the functional connectivity, neurotransmitter imbalance and also listening comprehension.

This finding begins to suggest how biomarkers relate with each other in autism,” Beversdorf said. “There may be whole other sets of biomarkers that may be inter-related and may be telling us something. It may serve as a biomarker to predict who will respond to what drug. Studies into fMRIs are still in the early stages. However, it’s important that studies continue into not only helping children with autism but also how to detect autism at an early stage. The sooner children with autism start receiving help, the better their lives could be in the long run.