Adult men with autism participate in one-of-a-kind study

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Forty autistic men, including Jason Bunn-Parsons, are participating in a longitudinal study on autism and aging.

Bunn-Parsons goes to Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) in Phoenix every two years. Researchers run MRI tests to track changes in his brain.

"It definitely is interesting to see what role my autism may or may not play in the aging process. Would it accelerate it? Would it actually slow it down?" Bunn-Parsons said.

This study was launched by researchers at BNI and the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC).

"There are subtle differences between typically developing individuals and subtle differences across age groups that will turn around and inform what we need to do by way of treatment to help individuals live more independently for longer periods of time," SAARC vice president and research director Christopher Smith said.

The MRI results have already revealed differences in areas of the brain controlling memory, attention span and the ability to organize and stay on task, according to BNI clinical neuropsychologist Leslie Baxter.

"They're not having problems that would cause them to be unable to function in their environment, but they may over time need a little bit more help to stay independent," Baxter said.

Researchers plan on continuing the study indefinitely. They are accepting participants that are ages 18-25 and 40 to 60 who are able to return to the BNI every two years.
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