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Brain Anatomy and Autism

Could people with autism have a larger-that-typical amygdala?

(Don't run to your dictionaries -- the amygdala is a brain structure commonly linked with the storage of emotional memories. Amygdala means almond-shaped, and this cluster of nuclei has that appearance.)

Researchers at the University of North Carolina say that toddlers with autism seem more likely to have a large amygdala, and the enlargement is seen in children as young as two years old. If that turns out to be a consistent finding, it may help guide early intervention for children with autism.

This brain abnormality appears to be tied to the ability to share attention and experiences with others, the team said.

"This study adds clarification to a potential fundamental brain mechanism underlying social deficits in autism. It provides potential insights into how this behavior develops," said lead researcher Dr. Joseph Piven, a professor of psychiatry.

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