Amygdala volume and autism

Dr Richard Davidson of Wisconsin, a top fMRI social psychologist, has some interesting findings related to brain imaging and autism…

The brain’s fear hub likely becomes abnormally small in the most severely socially impaired males with autism spectrum disorders, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have discovered. Teens and young men who were slowest at distinguishing emotional from neutral expressions and gazed at eyes least � indicators of social impairment � had a smaller than normal amygdala, an almond-shaped danger-detector deep in the brain. The researchers also linked such amygdala shrinkage to impaired nonverbal social behavior in early childhood.

Is the decrease in amygdala volume a function of a lifetime of autism, or is it an underlying feature? Do infants have smaller amygdalar volume?

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