Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterized by developmental delays, communication problems, abnormal social skills, learning disabilities and behavioral problems—all ranging from mild to severe. While some symptoms are apparent during infancy, most children exhibit ASD symptoms between the ages of 1 and 2.

In 2013, Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, NOS (not otherwise specified) were rolled into one umbrella category: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The frequency of being diagnosed with ASD has increased over the past few decades. Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control estimate that ASD affects 1 in 68 children. Currently, 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with ASD, making boys almost 5 times more likely than girls to have this disorder.

It is now known that ASD is not caused by just one thing. Rather, this broad condition can have many different causes. Similarly, there is not just one brain problem found in ASD, but actually 8 to 10 factors that can influence abnormal brain function.

The Importance of Brain SPECT Imaging in Autism Spectrum Disorder

During the past few decades, Amen Clinics have seen more than 1,000 adults and children with ASD. The SPECT studies of these patients reveal that their brain patterns tend to have high activity or low activity (even both in some cases).

High Activity Patterns in ASD:

  • Increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus and lateral prefrontal cortex, relating to symptoms such as:
    • Repetitious speech and behavior
    • Getting stuck on thoughts
    • Problems with transitions and change
  • An overall increase of activity throughout the brain, which may be associated with inflammation and be related to:
    • Mood instability
    • Emotional meltdowns
    • Anxiety

Low Activity Patterns in ASD:

  • A smaller, less active cerebellum, contributing to:
    • Impeded or poor motor skills
    • Problems with learning and thought coordination
  • Decreased activity in the back portion of the brain, especially in the parietal and temporal lobes, contributing to:
    • Communication difficulties
    • Learning problems
    • Sensory processing issues
    • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Overall decreased activity and “scalloping” (a bumpy looking surface on the scan image), which is associated with environmental toxicity
  • Sometimes, a head injury pattern is revealed

As you can see, brain activity patterns in ASD are quite varied, making it even more important to look at the brain with SPECT imaging.

Jacqueline, mother of son with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Kathy, mother of son with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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