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Does aggression and autism have any connection?

Washington: Help the autistic kids before it aggravates!

A new study finds, the smaller the brain stem, the greater the likelihood of aggression in children, with autism.

According to researchers from Brigham Young University in the US, there is an inverse correlation between aggression and brain stem volume in children with autism and the study will provide clues into the link between aggression and autism that will eventually lead to more effective intervention.

The finding is significant because “the brain stem is really involved in autonomic activities – breathing, heart rate, staying awake – so this is evidence that there’s something core and basic, this connection between aggression and autism,” said study author Kevin Stephenson.

They examined MRI images from two groups of children with autism – one that exhibited problematic levels of aggression and other that did not.

“Identifying the brain stem as having at least a partial involvement in aggression helps to lay a foundation for better treatment,” said another researcher Terisa Gabrielsen.

“If we know what part of the brain is different and what function that part of the brain controls, that can give us some clues into what we can do in the way of intervention,” Gabrielsen stated.

The group used data collected from a University of Utah autism study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“Once the body arousal in a child is too much — the heart is beating, the hands are clenched and the body is sweating — it’s too late. Some of these kids, if the brain isn’t working as efficiently, they may pass that point of no return sooner. So with behavioural interventions, we try to find out what the trigger is and intervene early before that arousal becomes too much,” explained another researcher Mikle South.

Studying aggression is kids with autism, Gabrielsen said, “It impacts families’ quality of life so significantly. If we look long-term at things that affect the family the most, aggression is one of the most disruptive.”

The team is interested in exploring further how the brain stem is connected functionally to other areas of the brain, “because usually the brain doesn’t work from just one area; it’s a network of areas that all work together,” Stephenson concluded. (ANI)