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A Microscopical Study on the Neuroanatomical Abnormalities of Language-Related Cortical Areas in Autistic Patients (funded through NAAR)

This project explored the anatomical and neurochemical substrates of language disabilities characteristic of autism. Research has demonstrated abnormalities in parts of the autistic brain, including the cerebral cortex. The language impairment may be due to alteration of auditory processing in primary and secondary cortices and/or disruption of the normal functioning of higher-order cortical fields. Because there are alterations in functional explorations of cortical hearing and language processing, it was hypothesized that such alterations may be due to a disorganization of normal cortical architecture. Dr. Prieto investigated the brains of deceased patients with autism, following a sequential approach. He first analyzed the gross anatomical alterations of the auditory cortical fields, and areas of Wernicke and Broca, then studied the microscopical organization of the cerebral cortex in those three areas, and finally studied changes in cortical circuitry involving neurochemically identified pyramidal cells and interneurons in the language areas of both hemispheres from patients with autism.