Breakdown in axon shields may spur autism

A team of scientists at UCLA has attracted considerable attention for research which suggests that flaws in the fatty shields that protect nerve-cell extensions--called axons--may be responsible for childhood disorders such as autism and ADHD. A breakdown of this protective coating exposing the brain's essential wiring can prevent cells from connecting properly, leaving them threatened by a host of neurological disorders. And the basic wiring needed for communication appears to be among the brain's processes that are most easily threatened. Team leader Dr. George Bartzokis said that these shields are vulnerable to a variety of toxic threats from the environment. Dr. Bartzokis' group also concluded that the brains of girls are better at myelination than boys, explaining why boys are more likely to be afflicted by autism.

- read the UPI report on autism