A Canadian MRI study has found similarities in the brain scans of children with autism, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and ADHD. The team of Toronto researchers imaged the white matter of 200 young participants in the landmark study. Up until now, autism, OCD and ADHD have been classified and studied as three separate disorders, despite having behavioural similarities.
The scientists’ decision to look at white matter was crucial, as white matter is the connective tissue made up of nerve fibres that facilitate communication between the different regions of the brain. “We found impairments in white matter in the main tract connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain in children with either autism, ADHD or OCD, when compared to healthy children in the control group,” said Dr. Stephanie Ames, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and lead author of the study.
The researchers also found impairments to white matter more substantial in children with autism and ADHD, while OCD subjects were less severe. Dr. Ames speculates this may have something to do with the earlier onset of autism and ADHD, which takes place during a critical and rapid stage of brain development.
The Canadian study is part of an initiative in Ontario that aims to better understand and treat childhood brain disorders.