Brain Scanning and Autism Diagnosis: More Than Meets The Eye

(Photo by digital cat/Flickr)

Many stories have been covered recently regarding potential breakthroughs in autism research. While many trials are being done testing the brains of infants, and some researchers are trying to extract and isolate certain genes, researchers at King’s College London have been doing things differently. After testing 40 adults, they were able to detect autism in the brains of individuals with 90% accuracy (The Journal of Neuroscience).

The traditional diagnosis for autism generally involves a team of experts who analyze behavior and make a complex sequence of assessments. In this study, The Medical Research Council study looked at 20 non-autistic adults and 20 adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Primarily, they were diagnosed using the traditional method mentioned above. In addition to this, they were each given a 15-minute MRI brain scan. The images from the scan were taken and configured into 3D and fed into a computer. The computer analyzed the scans and searched for small but noteworthy differences in them.

Professor Declan Murphy from the Institute of Psychiatry, who supervised the research, said, “What the computer can do very quickly is to see that a patient has autism, even though their brain, to the naked eye, looks very normal.”

Additionally, lead researcher, Dr. Christine Ecker, said she hoped the findings might result in a widely available scan to test for autism. She continued to say, “It could help to alleviate the need for the emotional, time consuming and expensive diagnostic process which ASD patients and families currently have to endure.”

Although it is still in the initial stages, many are hopeful that this computer-based system could provide more tools and insight on autism, perhaps even be applied to diagnosing children.

You can find more information on this study at the Journal of Neuroscience.

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