Brain scans used to aid autism diagnosis

New research has been published which suggests that brain scans may be commonly used in the future to aid with autism diagnosis.

Experts argue that the earlier the diagnosis, the better chance of using socialisation and integration techniques in early intervention therapies.

The study, published in the journal of Frontiers and development of human neuroscience argues that due to atypical brain change in children diagnosed with autism, brain scans can be used as an invaluable tool to visualise this change.

Rajish Kana PhD, headed a team of neuroscientists from Auburn University to research if this would be a viable option for future generations. He said:

“This research suggests brain connectivity as a neural signature of autism and may eventually support clinical testing for autism.We found the information transfer between brain areas, causal influence of one brain area on another, to be weaker in autism. ”

The investigators found that brain connectivity data from 19 paths in brain scans predicted whether the participants had autism, with an accuracy rate of 95.9 percent.

Kana, working with a team studied 15 high-functioning adolescents and adults with autism, as well as 15 typically developing control participants ages 16-34 years. The current study showed that adults with autism spectrum disorders processed social cues differently than typical controls. It also revealed the disrupted brain connectivity that explains their difficulty in understanding social processes.

Dr Kana explains:

“We can see that there are consistently weaker brain regions due to the disrupted brain connectivity,” Kana said. “There’s a very clear difference.Over the next five to 10 years, our research is going in the direction of finding objective ways to supplement the diagnosis of autism with medical testing and testing the effectiveness of intervention in improving brain connectivity ”

Autism is currently diagnosed using a set of specific test and cues for behavioural patterns and observation. Most children diagnosed are done from around 4 years old, although it  is sometimes spotted as early as 18 months.