Post-mortem study shows heavier brains in children with autism

The small preliminary study of post-mortem tissue from seven male children aged 2–16 with autism showed they had 67% more neurons in their prefrontal cortex compared with six control brains. Children with autism had brain weights for age that differed by 18% from normal compared with a difference of only 0.2% in controls.

“Because cortical neurons are not generated in postnatal life, this pathological increase in neuron numbers in autistic children indicates prenatal causes,” the authors said.

In an editorial, US psychiatrists said the data, together with other advances, may indicate “autism research is at last turning a corner”.

JAMA 2011; 306:2001-10;2031-32