PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — New research points to autism being set in motion even before birth.

Autism is a disorder marked by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors. It can be very challenging for someone severely affected.

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“That’s probably the most devastating thing for a parent, to know that a child is not going to be independent,” said Dr. Miguel Reyes-Mugica, a pathologist at Children’s Hospital.

Researchers looked at autopsy brain tissue of 22 children, ages 2 to 15. Half had known autism, half did not.

They are finding that in the womb certain brain cells do not mature properly, cells in regions that control emotion, language, and social perception.

The researchers found patches of disrupted brain development in 10 of 11 children with autism, and only one of 11 children who did not have autism.

The question for more study is whether this comes from genetics, the environment, or both.

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“Genetics is behind almost everything in our lives, but we modify the environment, and the environment modifies us,” said Dr. Reyes-Mugica. “So, there is a very close interaction between the two components.”

The information further clarifies the timing of when autism starts, well before a child is given any vaccines.

Based on where certain cell types failed to develop, the problem seems to happen during the second and third trimesters when the brain is setting up in layers and forming connections to process information.

Because the abnormalities form in patches, not everyone has the same exact pattern.

Also, some re-wiring in the brain takes place as a child grows. This could be an explanation for why children vary so much in how it shows.

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