New brain studies offer hope with social language

brainThe human brain has been receiving a lot of interest lately in studies designed to help autistic children. This interest may lead to early identification as well as an app that helps autistic children with social language.

If You Have Met One Autistic Person…..

The common saying in the autism community is that if you have met one person with autism then you have met one person, meaning that each individual’s experience with autism is different.

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University supports this idea with the finding that autistic brains make connections and synchronize activities in different ways. Not just different from those who do not have autism, but from each other as well.

The researchers studied brain scans from individuals at rest.  A  brain at rest makes spontaneous patterns  and connections. Scientists use an MRI machine to be see and study these links. Participants who did not have autism all had similar patterns in how their brain made connections. Those with autism did not have these same similarities. The research is preliminary, but may lead to a method for early detection and diagnosis.

Look Me In The Mouth?

A study that is starting at Southern Connectticut University, in cooperation with Yale and funded by the National Institute of Health, is focusing on learning how the brain works during communication.

Neurotypical (NT) people in a noisy environment will look at the other persons face and mouth to understand what they are saying more effectively.

This study shows that autistic children do not do this.

This three year study will test how children’s brains works when presented with speaking faces through video and computer apps. The test will also track eye movement.

Determining where autistic children are looking and helping them modify these patterns to look at peoples faces and mouths may lead to better communication skills.

After initial testing each participant will have an app to use that increases the background noise and difficulty of the words being spoken. This type of testing will help develop an app or software that can then be used to teach children how to observe faces to better communicate.

As more studies are completed a better picture of how the brain works will become clear. This understanding may lead to more specific treatments for symptoms as well as an ability to accurately identify non-verbal children with autism at a young age.

References:
CarnegieMellon University: Autism Connections
New Haven Register: SCSU research looks at autism, how the brain works