Autism, Autism and Mercury, Autism Tests & Diagnosis, Science

Autism / Mercury Linked Disproved? Autistic Children Have Larger Brains

A new study throws an interesting light on the autism and mercury link. Researchers examined the size of autistic children’s brains using fMRI scanners and found that autistic children had larger brains. The greatest volume increases was in the temporal lobe, an area of the brain involved in language. They also examined head measurements of autistic and non-autistic children and the data suggests that enlarged head size is not present at birth and that the onset of enlarged head size in autistic children begins, on average, at around 12 months. According to researcher Cody Hazlett “These findings, together with our brain volume data, give us reason to believe that a period of brain overgrowth in autism may occur between 12 months and 2 years of age“.
This study is important to the autism / vaccine / mercury debate because it indicates that the development of autistic traits, in this case a large head and brain, starts after birth but before most children are vaccinated. This suggests that if mercury does cause autism the children do not acquire it via the mother in utero or via vaccination. The apparently rapid decline in to autism that parents have reported in their children shortly after vaccination could be explained in two different ways. Firstly it might be coincidental and that the growth in the brain reaches a crisis or tipping point six months after the growth began. This would be around 18 months old, the same age that many children get immunised. The second explanation is that the immediate bad reaction some children experience after vaccination is the final straw for a child whose bodily functions are already struggling to cope with an unnaturally fast growing brain. After which the brain and body crashes into a downward spiral leading to autism.
The location in the brain this growth occurs is also significant. The temporal lobes have significant roles in speech and hearing. The lobes also surround the hippocampi and these are important in emotion and memory. All the obvious and recognisable symptoms of autism can be explained by problems in these areas of the brain. Thus the findings of the study fit well with our understanding of the brain and autism.
A final thought on this study. If autistic children’s heads grow larger than non-autistic children could we not have growth charts for the head in the same way we monitor a child’s height and weight? If a child’s head is larger that average at 12 months then they could be closely watched and at the very first signs of autism, intervention can begin. This would provide a cheap and early way of detecting autism, something that is vital for their long-term development.
Original Press Release. Study abstract: Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Head Circumference Study of Brain Size in Autism
Previous coverage on Myomancy of the Autism and Mercury debate.