The online journal Autism Research published a new study today on how MRI scans of brain circuitry might help us understand how the brains of people with HFA differ from the brains of people without spectrum disorders.
Researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism. How these findings might relate to adults with Asperger's is unknown. The scans helped researchers identify adults in the study with HFA with over 90% accuracy. While the study was small, the progress is promising, as researchers are increasingly in search of definitive evidence of brain differences related to autism. Identifying such differences may serve to clarify diagnosis, which is a largely subjective process at present.
While the study authors find the results promising, MRI scanning for diagnostic purposes is a long way from becoming a widely used tool.
Using the MRI, the study authors measured how the water in the brain flows along the axons or nerve fibers in the parts of the brain that control language, social and emotional functioning. The scans revealed that the wiring of the brains of those with autism was disorganized compared with the brains of a typical person without autism.
Such results are important for adults with Asperger's to consider, and important for their partners to consider. The communication difficulties which can cause immense frustration for the partner of an adults with AS are understood today, with increasing clarity, to result from neurological brain differences.
Currently there is no biologic test for autism; clinicians working with adults must gather information about current and past functioning to piece together a clinical picture. This process can be tricky, as adults have often adapted to social rules and settings, making what might be more easily identifiable "Aspie" behaviors difficult to see. Often family members are the true observers of these behaviors, but are left without a framework with which to understand them.