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Early brain injury can lead to autism, study says

Researchers from Princeton University recently offered a new theory regarding the genesis and onset of autism. The theory has to do with the cerebellum, the area of brain which processes motor control. Researchers suggest that an injury to the cerebellum during the birth process can significantly increase an infant’s likelihood of developing autism, more than almost every other known risk factor.

The connection between deficiencies in the cerebellum and autism have been known for some time, but the study takes a closer look at the issue from a developmental perspective, suggesting that a dysfunction in the cerebellum could affect the development of circuits in the neocortex and lead to cognitive and behavior issues as well as autism.  

In one of the studies cited by researchers, infants who suffered cerebellum damage at birth were 40 times more likely to have high scores on autism screening tests. The research is not conclusive as to the exact connection between the cerebellum and the development of autism, but hopefully further research is forthcoming.

Previous studies have shown that complications during labor and just after birth can increase a child’s risk for developing autism. Primary among these is oxygen deprivation, which can occur—at least in some cases—when nurses and physicians fail to properly negotiate labor and delivery.

When a woman’s child suffers serious injury due to a birth injury arising from caregiver negligence, he or she may have the ability to obtain compensation for those injuries. In building a case, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure one’s rights and interest receive the best possible advocacy.

Source: The Science Codex, “Early cerebellum injury hinders neural development, possible root of autism,” September 2, 2014.

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