Two independent studies may enable those who teach and care for autistic children to help them to learn and function better.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have found that children with autism showed signs of abnormal blood-vessel function and harmful levels of oxidative stress compared to healthy children. The researchers, led by Domenico Pratico, MD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, compared the urine samples of 26 autistic children with those of 12 healthy children. They measured isoprostane, a biomarker for oxidative stress; thromboxane, an index of platelet activation; and prostacyclin, a measure of blood vessel activation in the samples. They found that children with autism had significantly higher levels of these three in their urine. The researchers hope that this correlation between oxidative stress and blood vessel function in autistic patients may help scientists find new therapeutic options for this syndrome.
Meanwhile, a study funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has proved that autism is not limited to merely communication, social behavior, and reasoning but actually affects the functioning of the entire brain. The study compared 56 autistic children with 56 children who did not have the condition. All the children were between the ages of eight and 15. It found that autism could affect sensory perception, movement and memory because it hampers different parts of the brain from working together and achieving complex tasks. That is why the autistic children performed very well in visual and spatial skills tests and were very good at spelling and grammar but found it difficult to understand complex figures of speech like idioms or even tie their shoelaces. Despite its limitations, the study has been widely hailed.
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