New York educator Greg Gerkens recently served as the assistant principal for a BOCES high school program for students with special needs. He has long maintained a passion for helping individuals in his community and is a volunteer New York State Emergency Medical Technician. Greg Gerkens also supports various charitable organizations, including Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks funds a number of research activities focused on finding new interventions and identifying the causes of autism. One such research project is the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS), which recently released the results of a new study on brain growth rates. According to the research, infants who have a high risk of developing autism may experience faster growth rates of the brain’s surface. These differences can be noticed as early as six to 12 months of age and may help physicians accurately predict autism within the first year of a child’s life.
The IBIS tracked 106 baby siblings of children with autism and 42 babies with no history of autism in their immediate family. At six, 12, and 24 months, all infants underwent brain imaging scans and behavioral evaluations. During the course of the study, 15 of the high-risk infants developed autism while none of the low-risk infants developed the condition. Among the infants who did develop autism, all of them showed a hyper-expansion of their brain’s surface. This occurrence was not seen among any of the babies who did not develop autism.
Further, researchers found that hyper-expansion of the brain’s surface during the first year predicted an overall overgrowth of the brain between one and two years of age. The severity of this overgrowth correlated with the appearance and severity of social difficulties.