Will Your Baby Have Autism? Excess Brain Fluid Might Predict Probability At 6 Months, Study Says

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald March 07, 04:00 am

Researchers have established another way to detect the probability of autism development in babies as early as six months. A new study presented by experts from the University of North Carolina (UNC) cited excess brain fluid as an autism biomarker.

Experts saw that toddlers diagnosed with autism by the time they reach 2-years-old have significant cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) build up in their brain around six to 12 months. Experts were able to compare MRI brain scans of their subjects against babies without autism to arrive at a conclusion. The findings were published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Cerebrospinal fluid serves as a protective layer between the brain and the skull. It is naturally replenished by the neurological system four times a day. On babies with autism, however, CSF might not flow properly, thus there is excess brain fluid. This can be easily seen in an MRI.

"We think improper CSF flow could be one important mechanism [to autism]," co-study author Dr. Mark Shen said, per UNC Health Care. "We don't expect there's a single mechanism that explains the cause of the condition for every child."

Some 343 infants were examined for the study, where 221 have been tagged as high-risk babies because they have already siblings diagnosed with autism. From this group of high-risk babies, those who developed autism were found to have 18 percent more CSF in their brains.

Experts detected the excess brain fluid in babies' brains remain elevated until 12 to 24 months. Infants who later developed severe forms of autism were found to have the highest and longest CSF elevation.

So, what does these findings mean for parents? Experts do no suggest getting MRI scans for their babies immediately even if the baby is high-risk. Instead, more proof and studies are required to assess best early intervention methods in this case.

CSF as an autism biomarker has an accuracy of 70 percent only at this point. "We wouldn't recommend that every high-risk infant get an MRI until we know that the accuracy can be improved closer to the 90 percent range," Dr. Shen said, per Today.

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