Autism Linked to Language Disorder

Ivanhoe Newswire

— Autistic boys with language problems have a lot in common with boys suffering from a language-related disorder known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI).

The finding could help doctors better understand autism and how to choose the best treatments for individual components of the condition.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston used MRI
scans to look at Broca’s area — a key language center in the brain — in
autistic boys with language problems, autistic boys without language
problems, boys with SLI, and normal boys. Normally, Broca’s area will be
larger on the side of the brain opposite from the person’s handedness. In
other words, right-handed people generally have larger Broca’s areas on
the left side of the brain. All of the boys in this study were right-handed.
Results showed boys with SLI and autistic boys with language
problems both had larger Broca’s areas on the right side of the brain instead of the left side. Autistic boys without language problems and normal boys had
larger Broca’s areas on the left side of the brain.

The researchers believe these findings shed new light on autism and
the notion that autism might be more a collection of related disorders
with overlapping symptoms than a single disorder.

“It is well known that individuals with autism are often not responsive to treatment,” says Anne L. Foundas, M.D., a neurologist from Tulane University in New Orleans who commented on the study. “Ultimately, if we can subdivide individuals based on some objective measures … then we may be able to more selectively and effectively treat people with debilitating neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and SLI.”

SOURCE: Annals of Neurology, published online Oct. 11, 2004

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