What is the causes of Autism?

Is this what causes autism? Brain injury in the womb might be root of the disorder according to new research
• A new paper by Dr. Samuel Wang, a professor at Princeton, argues that damage to the cerebellum in the womb could be the root of autism
• Though most associate the cerebellum with motor skills, Dr. Wang theorizes it plays a much larger role in a child's early development
• Early brain injury has a major impact on how a child forms normal social relationships according to Dr. Wang
By Chris Spargo for MailOnline
Published: 23:31 GMT, 7 September 2014 | Updated: 13:20 GMT, 8 September 2014
Brain injury that occurs in the womb or early in a child's growth could be the root cause of autism according to new research.
A paper published just last month by Dr. Samuel Wang, an associate professor of molecular biology and neuroscience at Princeton University, argues that damage to the cerebellum may contribute to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other neurodevelopmental disorders later in life.
The cerebellum, Dr. Wang theorizes, is responsible for helping young minds process complex sensory information, which, over time, eventually leads them to form normal social relationships.
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New research: Damage in the brain while a child is in the womb may be the root cause of autism according to a paper published by Dr. Samuel Wang
It is widely believed that symptoms of the disorder become apparent before a child is three-years-old.
The cerebellum only makes up about 10 percent of the brain's mass, and is mostly in charge of movement-related functions, such as coordination. Early in a child's life, however, Dr. Wang makes the argument that the cerebellum has a much larger role, specifically as it pertains to social development.
'Some of the clinical and animal-research evidence for cerebellar involvement in autism has been known for years,' Dr. Wang says in an interview with The Daily Beast.
'But this evidence doesn't fit into the textbook wisdom that the cerebellum controls sensory processing and movement. At some level, researchers have been trapped by whatever framework they learned in college or graduate school.'
The paper gives the example of a child's response to a parent's smile. There is no reward to a smile, so the smile itself does not do anything to stimulate the parts of the brain that respond to rewards.
Over time however, the cerebellum begins to correlate seeing a parent smile with other rewards, such as being fed, and connects the areas of the brain that see the smile with those that signal rewards.
Should, however, a child have had any damage to the cerebellum in their formative years, they would be unable to make this connection between that part of the brain that sees the smile and that which triggers rewards, which would likely impair their social development.
Early damage to the cerebellum could also effect other 'downstream' areas of the brain, such as those responsible for cognition, which would most likely inhibit normal development.

Findings: Children with a cerebellar injury at birth have a likelihood of getting an ASD that is akin to that of a smoker developing lung cancer
For a child known to have a cerebellar injury at birth, the paper reports an increased relative risk for an ASD as equivalent to that of a smoker developing lung cancer.
And while Dr. Wang and his coauthors do not completely rule out injury during a child's early life as a possible root of this disorder, they feel it is more likely an injury suffered in the womb that is the cause.
'The research evidence is consistent with the idea that by birth, nearly all of the risk that leads to ASD has already occurred,' Dr. Wang says.
'There is certainly the possibility of postnatal risks, but to my knowledge the evidence for this is weak, and can usually be explained by some prenatal event.'
Having identified what he believes to be the root, now Dr. Wang hopes to move on to the next stage, and find better ways to treat the disorder.
'In the case of autism, the early-life cerebellum might be a target for future intervention,' he concludes his paper, which was published in the journal Neuron.
'Autism researchers have been hacking away at the genetics for years, but genes are a far cry from brain circuits. There's such a gap between genes and child development. I hope our article can help bridge that gap.'

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