A team of researchers has shown that measuring the growth of brains in babies can predict the onset of autism later in childhood.
Elison has applied for a grant to conduct a new round of imaging studies in Minnesota, because he said this initial finding needs to be replicated with different children and different MRI techniques.
Research is helping shed light on what causes autism.
Autism is rarely out of the news.
In the US, there are more than 3 million people with ASD, and tens of millions across the globe.
Siblings of children diagnosed with autism have a higher risk - one out of every five births - of developing the disorder, compared to those in the general population.
Over recent years, there has been an increasing drive to find biological markers for diseases, including autism.
It worked well. Using just three variables-brain surface area, brain volume, and gender (boys are more likely to have autism than girls)-the algorithm identified up eight out of 10 kids with autism. This also helps in future diagnosis and psychiatric support.
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With this in mind, Dr. Piven and his team took MRI scans of the younger siblings of children with autism.
In most cases, the researchers claim autism spectrum disorder can't be diagnosed until a child is two-years-old, although some signs could appear earlier.
By giving researchers a potential tool to diagnose babies, Dawson says the new study could open up possibilities for testing the potential new therapies.
Analysis of the MRI data using a computer-based technology called machine learning was then used to see if early brain differences at 6 and 12 months can predict autism at the age of two years.
There is no evidence that the risk of developing autism can be reduced in infants, says Raznahan, and the immediate application of early diagnosis would be to inform families.
Surface area measurements (blue) in certain areas of the brains of 6-month-old babies can distinguish children with autism from those without the condition.
By showing scientists more about how brains develop prior to an autism diagnosis, the study may also offer insights into the genetic triggers of autism, says James McPartland, a psychologist at Yale University's Child Study Center who also did not take part in the research. The unusual growth preceded a rise in brain volume over the following year that was linked to social difficulties the children developed.
This finding confirms earlier studies that also found accelerated expansion of cortical surface area in ASD. However, a study published Wednesday in Nature, claims to have possibly discovered a formula to identify children with a high-risk for autism before they start to seriously lag in their social development. "Certainly, early detection leads to early intervention, which leads to the best outcomes for the child", said Lucie Stephens, the program director at Autism Canada. "Now we have very promising leads that suggest this may in fact be possible".