According to a recent study published in the medical Journal Neuron, the part of the brain called the cerebellum may hold a key to understanding the development of autism spectrum disorder. One of the primary roles of the cerebellum is to coordinate motor functioning, but the cerebellum may actually have a more important role in developing brain function than was previously though.
The bottom line of the theory is that damage to the cerebellum at an early stage can lead to improper development later on. Injuries to the cerebellum at birth could therefore give rise to increase risk of developing autism.
The study is consistent with other evidence showing that the risk of developing autism has already occurred by birth. It is also consistent with previous studies looking at the same issue. For example, a study from 2011—which was actually a review of previous studies—put forward the theory that oxygen deprivation during delivery can lead to growth retardation, which can in turn lead to increased risk of developing autism. Reduced oxygen supply, whether during the prenatal period, labor, delivery, or infancy, can theoretically lead to increased risk of developing autism.
Interestingly, the recent study found that children known to have had an injury to their cerebellum at birth have a risk of developing autism more or less equivalent to a smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer.
Parents of children who suffer oxygen deprivation or brain injury at birth should know that they may have the ability to receive compensation in medical malpractice litigation. When pursuing such cases, it is important to work with an experienced attorney to ensure one’s case is as strong as possible.
The Daily Beast, “Early Brain Injury Might Be the Root of Autism,” Russell Saundders, September 7, 2014.
WebMD, “Birth Complications Linked to Autism,” Brenda Goodman, July 11, 2014.