AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 1, 2017

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Cerebrospinal Fluid Shows Promise as Autism Biomarker

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Researchers from the UC Davis MIND Institute, University of North Carolina (UNC) and other institutions have found that altered distribution of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in high-risk infants can predict whether they will develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “Normally, autism is diagnosed when the child is two or three years old and beginning to show behavioral symptoms; there are currently no early biological markers” said David Amaral, director of research at the MIND Institute and a co-senior author on the paper. “That there’s an alteration in the distribution of cerebrospinal fluid that we can see on MRIs as early as six months, is a major finding.” Produced by the brain, CSF was once cast as a neural shock absorber, keeping the brain from bumping up against the skull. More recent findings have shown that CSF can influence neuronal migration and other mechanisms associated with brain development, as well as removing dangerous molecules.

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