Serotonin and the autistic brain

We had Roman’s monthly appointment in Detroit this week.  The doctor in charge of the study went over the results of Roman’s PET scan with me.  It was a little strange in a cool way to be staring at pictures of the way my son’s brain works.  It was explained to me that in the young autistic brain, as compared to the neurotypical brain, serotonin is synthesized at a much lower rate.  There were all kinds graphs and charts to support this theory and I was convinced.

I wish I had a scanner so I could share the pictures with you better, but I had to take pictures of the print outs (which aren’t the greatest quality to begin with) to share here.  Bear with me.

This graph shows the average serotonin synthesis by age in both the autistic brain and the non-autistic brain.  The graph is by age and you can see that the autistic line is much lower than the non-autistic line until the children get to be 6 or 7.  I know it’s hard to read the ages at the bottom, so you’ll just have to believe me.  What I found most striking was how close Roman was to the autistic average.  He’s the big red dot in the graph.

We’ve had an educational diagnosis and a psychological diagnosis of autism both delivered in the past year.  It isn’t that I didn’t believe them, but this was the final cold splash of water to the face.  I’m fully awake now.  Roman is really, truly autistic.  As if there was any doubt, right?  I guess that there was a part of me that was still in denial.  No more.  It’s a mixed bag.  We know we’re doing everything we can to help him and he has an awesome support system of people that really care about his education and emergence.  But, I’m still a little disheartened.  I can’t help it.

I wanted to include pictures of the actual scans, but they didn’t come out well enough to make out any more than a big white blob in a big black blob.  Basically, they also showed that Roman is synthesizing serotonin like his autistic peers instead of like neurotypical children his own age.

While I can’t deny that I was a little deflated by the results, they were, and are, encouraging.  Roman has a serotonin level issue.  It’s too low.  The buspirone increases serotonin.  That’s a medical fact.  This study has become even more important to me now.  I really still believe that we may have found a miracle.  We’ll just have to wait and see how it works out.

And on that note, today and for the past week or so, we have been hearing more words from Roman.  It’s really hard to understand him, but today he even said “diaper”.  At school, they have been noticing the same thing.  More words, or at least word approximations.  Even better, Roman is starting to follow direction better.  He’s consistently turning off the television when I tell him to.  He’ll bring me his boots when I ask.  He even gets in his car seat sometimes at my request, which is a lifesaver since I threw my back out yet again a few weeks ago.

After all of this, I can say I am again hopeful and I have no regrets in putting Roman in the study.  I think we’re on the verge of something big.

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3 Responses to Serotonin and the autistic brain

  1. Jen says:

    This is really interesting, I must go research it some more. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Jen

  2. Amy says:

    This is amazing information… makes me wonder if the increase in autism, SIDS (now thought to be caused by low seratonin levels), and the north American epidemic of depression are all related.

  3. Pingback: Throb » Blog Archive » autistic brain pictures

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