Research published by a group of researchers from Columbia University Medical Center is showing that it’s a matter of too much. A baby’s brain produces a massive amount of synapses – the electrical and chemical connections that allow the neuron’s spines to send and receive signals. It might help to think of each neuron being covered with spines that are like very sensitive antennae. When there are too many signals, the system gets jammed.
One of the groundbreaking findings in this recent study is that all the children started with approximately the same number of synapses and spines on their neurons. So they’ve discovered that it’s not a question of overproduction of at birth.
The problem arises as the child ages. It’s normal for the brain to start pruning these synapses, so each area of the brain can develop its specific function. Within the group of autistic children, they found that the brain was not pruning the synapses, resulting in “too much noise”.
Ralph-Axel Müller, a neuroscientist at San Diego State University, agrees that there’s growing evidence of over-connectivity. After conducting brain imaging studies, he concluded, “Impairments that we see in autism seem to be partly due to different parts of the brain talking too much to each other. You need to lose connections in order to develop a fine-tuned system of brain networks, because if all parts of the brain talk to all parts of the brain, all you get is noise.”
This goes a long way in explaining why those with autism spectrum disorder experience oversensitivity to noise, problematic social interactions, and even why they are more prone to epilepsy. This is an exciting discovery, because it brings us one step closer to discovering effective treatments. Studies are already being done on possible drug therapy. But they have a long way to go to find an effective one that doesn’t have troubling side effects.
The use of medicines, whole foods, vitamins and supplements can help heal the brain. Combining this type of holistic health regimen and therapy has helped many of my clients to live a fuller and more productive life. If you live in the Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA area, please contact my office and set up an appointment.