Predicting Signs Of Autism As Early As 1-Year-Old? Imaging Study, Brain Scans Could Help

By Claire Parker, Parent Herald February 17, 04:00 am
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Brain scans in the study of autism show the disorder could be diagnosed as early as below 1-year-old.
(Photo : Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Imaging study and brain scans might help parents know if their child has signs of autism. With these methods, parents could know if their children have autism as early as the child's first year.

A new study suggested, for the first time, the possibility of diagnosing the likely development of autism on a child before their behavioral systems would appear around 3 or 4-years-old. The research was published this week on the journal called Nature.

Philly.com reported the findings were based on a small population of infants. The doctors who worked on the research said although they found new ways to detect the symptoms at the earliest time possible, they are still unsure how they could use early warning to prevent or lessen the development of autism.

"The ability to accurately predict who will develop autism opens up tremendous new opportunities to develop effective therapies starting in the first year of life," Robert T. Schultz, the director of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's center for Autism Research, said. Dr. Schultz continued to say being able to identify the signs would let parents have their children undergo the needed intervention before the autism fully emerges.

The babies that were part of the research were picked based on their siblings who were already diagnosed within the autism spectrum. Doctors said these babies have one in five chances of also developing the disorder.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the brains of the babies, who are respectively six months old, 1-year-old, and 2-years-old. The regions, the surface area and the thickness of the brains were examined.

As per the information gathered, the infants were predicted to develop autism by the age of two. The surface area of the brains of babies who later developed autism grew faster and larger than babies who did not have behavioral signs of autism. The rapid growth pattern was also discovered to have originated from the cerebral cortex.

The lead author of the study, Joseph Piven of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said there was no way to detect the biomarkers of autism. Now their study is promising as it is possible to know more about autism at an even earlier age, CBS News reported.

One in 68 children develop autism. The developmental disorder mostly affects social interactions and verbal communication.

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