New findings from research conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Psychology, and analyzed at Auburn University, suggests that professionals may use brain scans to assist in the diagnosis of autism.
Presently, parents and professionals notice characteristics of autism as early as 18 months, and therapy usually begins shortly thereafter. Senior researcher of the study, Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., is hopeful that the results from the study will prove important for the autism field,
“Parents usually have a longer road before getting a firm diagnosis for their child now. You lose a lot of intervention time, which is so critical. Brain imaging may not be able to replace the current diagnostic measures; but if it can supplement them at an earlier age, that’s going to be really helpful.”[i]
The study involved 15 high-functioning adolescents and adults with autism, and 15 typically developing controls between the ages of 16 and 34. Brain connectivity data from 19 paths in brain scans had a 95.9% accuracy rate in whether or not the participant had autism. The MRI scans suggest that adults with autism processed social cues differently than the control group, with disrupted brain connectivity. The researchers concluded that this disruption is what causes the social skill deficits seen in many cases of autism.
The findings of this study are important to autism research, and Kana and his associates hope they will be able to discover methods to supplement and improve the autism diagnosis.
[i] “Science Daily” Brain scans may aid in diagnosis of autism. 17 Oct 2013. Web. < http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131017114233.htm>