By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News

June 9, 2010 — Accumulation of rare DNA mutations in genes affecting brain function appears to be a major cause of autism, a large international study suggests.

“This will lead to a paradigm shift in understanding causes of autism,” study researcher Stephen Scherer, PHD, of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, said at a news conference held to announce the findings.

Finding the cause of autism is like trying to put together a huge jigsaw puzzle with no idea of what the final picture should look like, says study researcher Anthony Monaco, MD, PhD, of the U.K.’s University of Oxford.

“What we have found are the edges of the puzzle. We now can say some of the pieces are the sky or the sand of the picture,” Monaco said at the news conference. “We now see that some of the genetic changes in autism are related to connections in the brain.”  Read more