AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER
Autism currently affects 1 in 68 children
Having seen more than 1,000 patients with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at Amen Clinics, we understand that the condition is not caused by one specific thing in the brain, but that there are actually 8-10 different factors that influence abnormal brain function.
After decades studying brain activity patterns, we have found that people with ASD tend to have areas of high and/or low activity:
High Activity Patterns:
- Increased activity in the anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex which can be related to symptoms like getting stuck on negative thoughts, repetitious behavior and problems with transitions and change
- A “Ring of Fire” pattern – This is overall increased activity throughout the brain, which may be associated with inflammation and underlie problems related to mood stability and anxiety
Low Activity Patterns:
- Smaller, less active cerebellum, contributing to impeded or poor motor skills, thought coordination and learning problems. Normally, the cerebellum should be the most active part of the brain because it contains 50% of the brain’s neurons (nerve or brain cells)
- Decreased posterior hemisphere activity, especially in the parietal and temporal lobes, that can affect learning, communication, sensory processing and understanding abstract concepts
- Overall decreased activity and scalloping, which is associated with environmental toxicity
- Sometimes a head injury pattern is revealed
Due to the variability of the underlying brain function problems in ASD, SPECT is extremely useful for revealing otherwise hidden information, which helps us select the best course of treatment for each person with the disorder.
Case Studies: Autism Spectrum Disorder
This patient is a 15-year-old boy with autism who is non-verbal and has had seizures since he was 7 months old. His SPECT scans revealed:
- Areas of low activity in many regions of the brain; some of which may be partially related to head traumas from falling down
- Overactivity in the basal ganglia (correlating with his anxiety symptoms)—a fairly common finding in ASD
This patient is a 22-year-old male with Asperger Syndrome. His SPECT scan revealed:
- Areas of high activity in the deeper regions of the brain
- Decreased blood flow on the surface of the brain
This is the scan of a 9-year-old boy with ASD whose imaging studies revealed high activity in a Ring of Fire pattern, as well as lower internal activity in the cerebellum.