Does Specific Pattern Recognition Help Identify Autism In Toddlers?

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At the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, researchers have been using methods that track eye movements in toddlers.  They have noticed that certain toddlers have a predisposition for dynamic geometric patterns than they do social images.  This is a behavior that is not seen in typically developing children or even developmentally delayed children.  Results show that toddlers with this predisposition may be at-risk for autism.

Karen Pierce, an assistant professor at UCSD Department of Neurosciences states that, “In testing 110 toddlers ages 14 to 42 months, we found that all of the toddlers who spent more than 69 percent of their time fixing their gaze on geometric images could be accurately classified as having an autism spectrum disorder or ASD.”

Throughout this study, babies ranging between the ages of 12 and 42 months were placed on their mother’s lap.  While seated there, they watched a one-minute movie that contained shapes moving from side to side across the screen and other children performing yoga.  These images represent the dynamic geometric images and dynamic social images.  Researchers then used an infrared beam to study the amount of time that each baby focused their eye on the various images. It was interesting that babies who suffered from autism were fixated on the geometric images that were not much different than a typical desktop computer screen saver.

This research is critical in early diagnosis of autism of toddlers.  An earlier diagnosis means earlier treatment and will also lead to finding a treatment for autism at an even earlier age.

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