Researchers have discovered that the brains of autistic children generate significantly more information at rest than that of a normal child.
In the new study, experts found brain activity among autistic children is increased by an average of 42 percent.
Investigators from Case Western Reserve University and University of Toronto believe this finding offers a scientific explanation for the most typical characteristic of autism — withdrawal into one’s own inner world. That is, the excess production of information may explain a child’s detachment from their environment.
As published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, this study is a followup to a prior finding that brain connections are different in autistic children.
The new research found that the differences result from the increased complexity within the brains of an autistic child.
“Our results suggest that autistic children are not interested in social interactions because their brains generate more information at rest, which we interpret as more introspection in line with early descriptions of the disorder,” said Roberto Fernández Galán, Ph.D.
The authors quantified information as engineers normally do but instead of applying it to signals in electronic devices, they applied it to brain activity recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG).
They showed that autistic children’s brains at rest generate more information than non-autistic children. This may explain their lack of interest in external stimuli, including interactions with other people.
The researchers also quantified interactions between brain regions, i.e., the brain’s functional connectivity, and determined the inputs to the brain in the resting state allowing them to interpret the children’s introspection level.
“This is a novel interpretation because it is a different attempt to understand the children’s cognition by analyzing their brain activity,” said José L. Pérez Velázquez, Ph.D., first author.
“Measuring cognitive processes is not trivial; yet, our findings indicate that this can be done to some extent with well-established mathematical tools from physics and engineering.”
This study provides quantitative support for the relatively new “Intense World Theory” of autism proposed by neuroscientists Henry and Kamila Markram of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, which describes the disorder as the result of hyper-functioning neural circuitry, leading to a state of over-arousal.
Source: Case Western Reserve University