MRI Scans Find Larger Brains in Children With Autism


CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Dec. 9 - MRI scans indicate that the brains of children with autism are larger than those of healthy children, suggesting an unusual pattern of brain growth that may have its onset in shortly before a child’s first birthday.

The increased brain volume was detected in the cerebral cortical volumes but not in cerebral volumes, according to Heather Cody Hazlett, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina here.

The brains of children with autism are about 5% larger than brains of non-autistic children, and the enlargement is due mainly to larger grey matter and white matter volumes in the cerebral cortex, Dr. Hazlett and colleagues reported in the December issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Magnetic resonance imaging studies were conducted in 51 children with autism and 25 controls. The control group included developmentally delayed children as well as typically developing children. All children were evaluated between ages 18 and 35 months.

The researchers also retrospectively assessed head circumference data from birth to age three years in 113 children with autism and 189 controls. In the autistic children, “head circumference appears normal at birth, with a significantly increased rate of head circumference growth [P=.001] appearing to begin around 12 months of age,” they wrote.

While this study confirmed earlier reports of “generalized cerebral cortical [grey matter] and [white matter] brain volume enlargement at age two in individuals with autism,” the authors said the findings are limited by the small control arm. They cited difficulty in ascertaining and scanning large numbers of children without autism at age two.


interesting… i work with children with autism and ive heard this study before… but im not good with physiology so i dont exactly know what that is supposed to prove… anyone know about the brain?


It proves that you can find autism early… The problem lies in finding a way to stop it from happening.


i get that… i meant- why is the brain larger? why more gray and white matter or whatever???


My son Austin is autistic (as alot of you know) and I never knew about this… Austin DOES have a big head though!! All I can tell you is that maybe those gray areas are what the problem is. Austin is delayed in many things and has a hard time remembering things. He doesnt have coordination that most kids his age have. Im gonna have to look into this “big head” thing.


i dunno if the “big head” can tell u anything … all the kids i work with have little peanut heads… :smiley: i tried to look into this a little bit… and the bigger areas of gray matter make it harder for information to pass through as quickly as typical children and make it harder for them to process things…

how old is your son V?


He is 5 years old. MAN LET me tell you. I had HELL in target. He doesnt do good in big stores and he FREAKED out on me. I swear to god, i thought I was gonna beat the living shit out of him… but I calmed down and put him in his room when we got home… THEN he distroyed his room!! I had a shitty day w/ him today!


I didn’t know your boy was autistic V. My best friend from the service just found out his daughter has it too. :frowning:

Fortunatly we know a lot more about it now, so it’s not ‘quite’ as bad as it used to be. He sure is a cute kid.

I thought grey matter in the brain was the storage space?? i.e., the more grey you had, the more you could retain. Is that not how it works?