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Take a Look at Autism and How Brain Mapping Could Help
Written by Erin MacPherson
Last updated on May 03, 2013 @ 6:58PM
Created on May 03, 2013 @ 5:38PM
 
Autism awareness month recently ended, but that doesn't mean the awareness has to be put on hold until next April.
 
More and more people are being diagnosed everyday, but there may be a new way to learn about the disorder. President Obama's Brain Mapping Project could help fight the growing numbers.

First, a little background on Autism. There's a misconception that autism is an intellectual issue, but really it's a genetic based syndrome that affects social interaction and behavior.

"1 in 88 children is diagnosed with autism, so it's definitely growing especially more prevalent in males than females," Morgan Hobbs, Autism Fundraiser.

Common symptoms of autism are isolation, slow development of language skills, and repetitive behavior. But there are all different levels of autism.

"You really can't categorize every person that has autism into a little cubby hole, there's a broad spectrum. It's very much like the normal population," said Bob Williams, Ph.D.

We understand the signs of autism, but how does it happen?

"There isn't a known cause for autism. They don't know what causes it and they don't know how to really help it. But they do know, right now, that early intervention helps to further the child's progress," said Hobbs.

And that's why President Obama proposed the brain mapping project.

With brain mapping and understanding of genetics, that we didn't have prior to ten or 15 years ago, we can begin to learn causes as well as some of the early treatments and life long treatments," said Dr. Williams.

But what is brain mapping exactly?

"It's a frontier that's known to be a good bet to help us to discover how human beings are, what occurs in the brain, and it lends a lot of hope to being able to help treat some of the illnesses that have continued to be mysteries to us," said Dr. Williams.

This project is expected to cost over $100,000,000.

"Obama's proposal would make up to .00002% of the federal government and that $100,000,000. While it sounds a lot to us it's not a lot for the federal government. In fact, the department of defense spends that much or more every minute," said Patrick Hickey, Political Science Professor at WVU.

President Obama and the federal government have gotten millions of dollars of commitments from private groups to match that money. And it it could benefit the economy by bringing in more jobs

"It seems like a good investment and our estimates are anywhere from for every dollar invested by the federal government we've gotten somewhere from $100 to $200 of economic benefits," said Hickey.
 
Dr. Williams said we're behind on this project compared to other areas. He said China and Europe have already invested a lot of time and money in similar projects.
 
It's important to know that brain mapping can help other neurological diseases like dementia and Alzheimer. 
 
Autism Speaks. Are you listening?

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