A team of researchers has revealed that a specific procedure for magnetic resonance imaging in six-month-olds can help predict babies who are at risk of developing an autism disorder at the age of two.
Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social interaction and communication, and restricted or repetitive modes of thinking and behavior. According to the researchers, the siblings of children diagnosed with autism are at greater risk of developing the disorder.
Although early diagnosis and intervention can help improve outcomes in children with autism, there is currently no method to diagnose the disease before children show symptoms. The results revealed that this method, Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fcMRI), identified 82 per cent of newborns who reported having autism (9 out of 11) and correctly identified all children who Have not developed autism.
Diana Bianchi, director of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the United States, said earlier findings suggested that brain-related changes occur in autism before symptoms of behavior Do occur. Bianchi added that if future studies confirm these findings, detecting brain differences may allow doctors to diagnose and treat autism earlier than they do today.
The research team led by NIH-funded researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis focused on functional connectivity Of the brain - how the regions of the brain work together for different tasks and during rest. Using fcMRI, the team analyzed 59 high-risk infants and six months as they naturally slept. Children were considered high-risk because they have older brothers and sisters with autism. At the age of two, 11 of the 59 infants in this group were diagnosed with autism.
The researchers used computer technology called machine learning, which trains to look for differences that can separate the results of neuroimaging into two groups, autism or non-autism, and predict future diagnoses. Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said that in the future, neuroimaging could be a useful tool to diagnose autism or help health care providers assess the risk of a child Develop the disorder.