Posted by RedOrbit
Brain changes in infants as young as six months of age suggest that MRIs could be used to detect autism in children at least half a year before the emergence of other symptoms, according to a new study published online Friday in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
According to Lara Salahi of ABC News, Dr. Joe Piven, director of the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities and senior author of the study, and colleagues studied 92 infants who had already been considered to be high-risk of developing autism-spectrum disorders (ASDs) because of siblings who had already been diagnosed with the ailment.
Piven’s team tracked brain changes in those infants at the six-month, one-year, and two-year points, then formally tested each for autism using the standard diagnostic test at the age of two — which according to ABC News is the typical age when ASDs are diagnosed.
Of the 92 subjects, 28 of them whose MRI results showed slower than normal brain connections went on to be diagnosed with autism or a similar disorder, “suggesting the condition has a stronger genetic and biological root” than previously believed, Salahi wrote. The researchers report that this is the first study to track brain changes in infants as young as a half-year old, she added.
“These results offer promise that we may one day be able to identify infants at risk for autism before the behavioral symptoms are present,” Dr. Geri Dawson, Chief Science Officer of Autism Speaks, an ASD fund-raising and advocacy group, and co-author of the study, said in a statement on Friday. “The goal is to intervene as early as possible to prevent or reduce the onset of disabling symptoms.”