Pinpointing Autism Risk In Newborns

A study appearing in the Journal of Pediatrics found that low-birth-weight newborns were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with autism later in life if an ultrasound taken just after birth showed they had enlarged ventricles, cavities in the brain that store spinal fluid.

Low-birth-weight babies are at greater risk for autism because of a particular brain abnormality, this study showed and that it could provide doctors a marker for early detection of autism.

Tammy Movsas, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at MSU and medical director of the Midland County Department of Public Health and lead author said, “For many years there’s been a lot of controversy about whether vaccinations or environmental factors influence the development of autism, and there’s always the question of at what age a child begins to develop the disorder.”

She also indicated that “What this study shows us is that an ultrasound scan within the first few days of life may already be able to detect brain abnormalities that indicate a higher risk of developing autism.”

By examining data from a group of 1,105 low-birth-weight infants born in the mid-1980s, Movsas and colleagues reached this conclusion about their having a greater risk for autism. The babies had cranial ultrasounds just after birth so the researchers could look for relationships between brain abnormalities in infancy and health disorders that showed up later

Said co-author Nigel Paneth, an MSU epidemiologist who helped organize the cohort, “This study suggests further research is needed to better understand what it is about loss of white matter that interferes with the neurological processes that determine autism.”This is an important clue to the underlying brain issues in autism.”


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