We’re moving on to a rather controversial topic: brain autopsy. Rather than talking about the future and how it involves xNeurals, I want this post to be more informational, allowing the audience to use this information to be as imaginative as possible. Refer back to the blog post on the “Physiology of the Brain” to jog any physiology related terms that you may have forgotten!

Referring to the definition of brain autopsy from the NIH, “Brain autopsy is the process of analyzing a person’s brain after death to determine with certainty whether or not the donor had Alzheimer’s disease and/or another form of dementia.” UCSF performs brain autopsies and does thorough research on the results of these autopsies. They believe that “Through an autopsy, the effects of a neurodegenerative disease on the brain can be studied in detail and evaluated visually. Many neurodegenerative diseases — such as Alzheimers disease, frontotemporal dementia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.”

Brain autopsy has proven that the volume of neurons change with time and development. Through brain autopsy, scientists have found that people with autism have more dendritic spines, and the brain’s ability to mold and adapt is reduced, which leads us back to the concept of neuroplasticity. They have been able to find that treatments should target the area where brain cells meet. This would create alterations in the structure of the brain. Another big finding is on the basis of neural circuits. According to Autism Brain Net, “Cells of the cerebral cortex are also organized along narrow units of information transmission, or ‘minicolumns,’ where information travels both within and across columns. Scientists found that the autistic brain had more yet smaller minicolumns compared to the brain of typically developing individuals… [and] individuals with fragile X, a condition associated with ASD, had neurons with more ‘spines,’ which are small, thorn-like looking structures neuron use to ‘talk’ via chemical signals. Together, these findings suggest that the brain of people with ASD may be wired differently, and that cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate information transmission are altered.” While these findings are quote heavy, I think these findings are really important to view word-to-word. Another quote I would like to highlight from Autism Brain Net is, “Clinical symptoms of ASD share similarities with other neurodevelopmental or psychiatric conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. However, it was only by studying the brain tissue of people with these conditions that scientists confirmed that these disorders do share similar patterns of gene activity.” There are ways to electrically ‘turn off’ the cancer gene. Similarly, we could work on something to electrically turn off or alter the gene activity of ASD.

With an attachable ‘brain’, we would be able to stimulate these signals in the brain to essentially rewire and reroute the brain.

Analyzing postmortem brains for autism? Proceed with caution. Spectrum. (2019, March 4). Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.spectrumnews.org/opinion/viewpoint/ analyzing-postmortem-brains-autism-proceed-caution/.

Casanova, M. (2014, July 14). Brain donations and research in autism: The good, the bad and the ugly. Cortical Chauvinism. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://corticalchauvinism.com/ 2014/07/14/brain-donations-and-research-in-autism-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Brain donation resources For adrcs. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/ brain-donation-resources-adrcs.

UCSF Health. (2020, October 6). Brain autopsy Service. ucsfhealth.org. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/programs/brain-autopsy-service.

Yeager, A. (n.d.). Excess of immune cells found in brains of people with autism. The Scientist Magazine®. Retrieved September 14, 2021, from https://www.the-scientist.com/notebook/excess-of-immune-cells-found-in-brains-of-people-with-autism-66917.

— Jayvanti Vanmanthai

We have a passion for Neuroscience.. hands-on interest in applying DeepLearning to model a Hyperactive Brain