Brain scans for babies could help with early autism diagnosis
The next step was to take the data-MRI's of brain volume, surface area, cortical thickness at six and 12 months of age and the sex of the infants-and used a computer program to identify a way to classify babies most likely to meet criteria for autism at two-years old.
But a new study suggests there is evidence of autism in the brain even earlier-well before a child's first birthday-and that the signs can be seen on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
Although the driving forces behind the development of ASD are unclear, genetics appear to play a part; around 1 in 5 children with siblings who have ASD will develop the condition themselves.
About one in 68 children born in the USA are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the developmental disorder that affects a number of brain functions-most notably children's ability to socialize and communicate.
Researchers also say that larger studies are needed to confirm the accuracy of autism prediction using MRIs. "We hope these ongoing efforts will lead to additional biomarkers, which could provide the basis for early, pre-symptomatic diagnosis and serve also to guide individualized interventions to help these kids from falling behind their peers".
A computer-generated algorithm predicted which of the infants would develop autism by age two.
Giving children brain scans, particularly those in high-risk families, could lead to children being diagnosed earlier. Its first author was Heather Cody Hazlett of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. At least 3 million people in the United States have autism.
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What scientists found was that these high-risk children, who went on to develop ASD, experienced a hyper-expansion of the brain from six to 12 months of age. This study was conducted only on infants that had a high risk of developing this condition.
"The findings lay the foundation for the field to move toward attempting to implement interventions before the symptoms that define autism consolidate into a diagnosis", said study co-author Jed Elison, Ph.D.
Researchers followed their brain sizes.
Some had older siblings with autism and were considered high-risk. Other key collaborators are McGill University, the University of Alberta, the College of Charleston, and New York University.
Autism can be diagnosed from about two years of age, when behavioural and communication problems start becoming evident.
"It's an excellent piece of science, but ultimately it's based on a few hundred individuals", says Armin Raznahan, a clinician-scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
About Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was founded in 1855 as the nation's first pediatric hospital.
Numerous measurements the algorithm relied on most are related to surface area, and came from 6-month-old children.
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Feb 16 2017