Can Early Brain Imaging Predict Autism Risk?

Zachary BarrettFeb 17, 2017

Researchers looked at two groups of infants: a high-risk group of infants who had an older sibling with autism, and a low-risk group of infants with no history of autism. It was able to predict which children would develop autism with 80% accuracy.

Brain scans of babies may predict which ones will develop autism, a debilitating disorder whose symptoms can be softened with early behavioural therapy, researchers have found.

It's known that earlier intervention produces better results in those with autism spectrum disorder, coauthor Stephen Dager of the University of Washington in Seattle said in a statement.

Approximately one out of every 68 children in the United States has autism.

Signs of potential autism spectrum disorder can be detected in high-risk infants as young as 12 months with 80 percent accuracy, according to an worldwide study published Wednesday.

The study took place across a number of sites in the US, including the University of North Carolina, the University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PA. Other key collaborators were New York University, the College of Charleston, McGill University and the University of Alberta. "We could not have made these discoveries without their wholehearted participation". For the study, researchers conducted MRI scans of the babies at six, 12, and 24 months of age. "Often we don't keep in mind the degree of work it takes to do this kind of study", Dawson says.


In this most recent study, researchers across the country used an MRI to scan the brains of 6-month-old babies, 1-year-old babies, and then once more when the babies turned 2. Researchers associate this with a higher overall brain size during the second year of life, which is already an established marker for autism.

For reasons scientists don't yet understand, an early growth in the outer layer of the front of the brain was the beginning of a pattern that led to larger brains in general, which have been associated with autism. Still, with only 100 at-risk children, the study is too small to be considered definitive-nor should doctors rush to use MRIs to diagnose autism, Hazlett says. The ability to identify autism risk during infancy could set the stage for developing very early preventive treatments when the brain is most malleable.

"I think it's wonderful that they are looking into finding ways of detecting autism earlier and earlier". "Once you've missed those developmental milestones, catching up is a struggle for many and almost impossible for some".

One thing the study could not show is whether there is anything different about the autism in families that have more than one child with the condition, compared with autism that seems to have no familial connection.

"The results of this study are a real breakthrough for early diagnosis of autism", said Robert Schultz, who leads the Center for Autism Research at CHOP.

The findings published Wednesday could be a game changer, pointing to the possibility of identifying children on the spectrum at far younger ages and before behavioral symptoms become apparent, researchers said.

Related Articles:



« Previous article
Next article »


Popular Pages

ACC Basketball: Mark Gottfried will not return to NC State next season
This time around, North Carolina State now owns a almost even 14-13 record in addition to a disappointing 3-11 mark in ACC play. The NC State men's basketball team denied any rumors regarding the firing of head coach Mark Gottfried.

Puzder to Back Out of Labor Secretary Nomination
Supporters of Puzder are launching a campaign to defend him after months of criticism from Democrats and labor groups. Puzder also opposed wages in minimum wage, which was a rallying point for many who protested his nomination.

Nets Ignore Humana Announcement to Pull Out of Obamacare for 2018
She said the trade association took the position after holding a conference call with stakeholders across the country Friday. Representatives of the Health and Human Services Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Goals galore as Bayern, Real dominate ECL
The result? Two goals in the first ten minutes of the half to blow the match wide open. Napoli had a goal disallowed for offside in the 80th.

Mexican detained in USA despite work permit
Ramirez in his lawsuit is seeking his immediate release and an injunction forbidding the government from arresting him again. While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to falsely admit affiliation.

Spotify to relocate U.S. headquarters to 4 World Trade Center
Spotify will create more than 1,000 new jobs and retain 832 jobs, while investing to fit out and equip its new office space. The rent reduction incentive program was created to lure businesses back to the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.

Toyota Global Hybrid Sales Hit 10 Million
It draws its juices from a nickel-metal hydride battery pack and, as a standalone, produces 143PS of power and 270Nm of torque. The Japanese automaker is aiming at achieving cumulative sales of 15 million gasoline-electric hybrids by 2020.

New England Patriots, Tom Brady discussing extension
It pains me to say it, but Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time. That's why I want to keep taking care of what I need to take care of".

Arsenal players behave disgracefully after Bayern hammering, apart from one good Gunner
Bayern Munich scored four goals in the second half to send Arsenal to the brink of crashing out of the Champions League . Having won the ball in midfield, the French worldwide sprinted past the midfield and a defiant Sergio Ramos.

The Weeknd just dropped a track dissing Justin Bieber
Recording artist Justin Bieber performs onstage during the 2016 Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena on May 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nev.