Abnormal Brain Structure May Be Linked To Autism

                 LONDON, ENGLAND -- June 11, 1998 -- Abnormal brain
                 structure is the latest suspect for
                 researchers looking for a cause for autism. Scientists
                 in the United States have found that some
                 stunted regions of the brain may be to blame for the
                 most severe symptoms of the condition, while
                 other undersized regions may cause the milder symptoms
                 often suffered by close relatives of autistics.

                 Wendy Kates and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins School
                 of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, used
                 magnetic resonance imaging to look at the brains of
                 seven-year-old identical twins. One of the boys
                 had classical autism, while his twin had some of the
                 symptoms of autism, including language and social
                 problems. Kates said that about half of all close
                 relatives of autistic children have these milder

                 Their report appears in the Annals of Neurology.

                 When the researchers compared the brain scans of the
                 two boys, they found several differences. The
                 amygdala, a structure involved in emotion and the
                 hippocampus, important for learning and memory,
                 were about half the size in the autistic child compared
                 with his twin brother. The cerebellum and the
                 caudate nucleus, thought to be involved in shifting
                 attention from one task to another, were also
                 significantly smaller.