Brain Scans May Someday Detect Autism

Katherine - posted on 02/22/2011 ( 7 moms have responded )

65,420

232

4872

From: http://pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com/2011/...
Brain scans may someday detect autism

Researchers are hoping that by using a common tool for measuring of brain activity in a new way, they may be one step closer to identifying whether a child is a greater risk for autism.

"We haven't diagnosed autism at this point," says William Bosl, Ph.D., lead author and a research scientist at Children's Hospital Boston. But he says by using an electroencephalogram and new, sophisticated computer programs to analyze the EEGs, he and his co-authors were able to correctly identify with 80% accuracy, which babies were at higher risk for autism and which were not.

Scientists have known for quite some time now that the earlier a child with autism gets therapy, the easier it is to improve language and behavioral skills. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children be screened for autism at the ages of 18 months and 24 months. Here researchers are trying to find markers for autism before a child begins showing signs of autism.

In a new study published Tuesday in the journal BMC Medicine, scientists studied 79 infants. 46 babies had a brother or sister with known autism, which means they themselves are at an increased risk for the neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about one in 110 children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sibling of a child with a confirmed diagnosis of autism has a 1 in 5 chance of also developing the disorder. These infant siblings were compared with 33 infants with no known family history of autism.

The babies were given EEG's at 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months of age. Researchers strapped a net of 64 electrodes all over a baby's head while it was sitting in its mom's lap and a research assistant was blowing bubbles to hold the child's attention. The electrodes measured actual firings of neurons. The EEG technique is much easier to use because the baby can be awake and moving and wiggling around, says Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which partially funded this research. Other brain imaging technologies like magnetic resonance imaging would require a baby to be asleep or sedated because they have to be completely still while the test is being done. "Nobody wants to sedate a healthy infant," says Dawson.

Bosl explains that the new computer algorithms that he developed were able to analyze results of the EEG much better than in the past. He said that, judging by the differences in brain activity, he and his colleagues could detect which babies were in the high-risk group. They say they were nearly 100% accurate when the boys were 9 months old. They were most accurate with baby girls at age 6 months. Overall, the biggest differences in brain activity were seen at 9 months – which is much earlier than when a child typically shows behavioral problems associated with autism. The differences in brain activity were smaller as the babies got older.

Doctors and scientists not connected to the study are intrigued by the results but caution that this is very early research and not something concerned parents can be looking for as a screening tool for their babies any time soon.

Sarah Paterson, Ph.D., is the director of the neuroimaging lab at the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She is also looking for early signs of autism as part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study, but her work focuses on differences in brain structure. Paterson says that if the results out of Boston can be confirmed, "It's very exciting because finding an early sign for autism is really the holy grail." But she cautions that a lot more work needs to be done. "This study needs to be replicated by their lab and independent scientists," she says.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer says the researchers have found a "really fascinating technique, that offers a different way to look at the brain." Wiznitzer – a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio – notes that what the study can't tell us is what the differences in brain activity between the two groups of babies actually mean. He, too, is hopeful that further research will provide more concrete information.

Bosl says the first children enrolled in his study are now at 2 and 3 years old, which is the age when autism usually is diagnosed. This will now allow the researchers to evaluate them for autism and then look back at the brain activity patterns of the children who do fit the clinical criteria for autism.

Bosl acknowledges that if this is very early research, but he believes if the results are confirmed, it may lead to a safe and inexpensive way to detect autism, which would allow intervention before any autistic behaviors appear.
"It'll change the field, if this works," says Bosl. He hopes to expand the number of babies in his study to 200. "The only thing slowing us down right now is funding."

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Rosetta - posted on 02/25/2011

3

37

1

It's good to see that research is continuing on autism and that methods used are being updated. My son was diagnosed when he was 5/6, EEG was done and other tests, his is moderate, we been fortunate that this wasn't a sever case and that he has grown into an independent young person with hope for his future. He gets help in speech therapy and afterschool classes for math and reading. We did nothing special except to raise as we did our other two children who aren't autistic. He's like any other kid, he knows he has something tht sets him apart from other kids, but, also understands he the same like them. he's not ashamed of who he is and takes it all in stride. We just try to keep on things with him. I pray that one day other parents will and can get the help necessary for their kids and that something will be done to improve things for their children.

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

7 Comments

View replies by

Zenzele - posted on 05/01/2011

69

15

18

I love ANY research in our field. However, when you look at the medical field and its rules along with insurance companies, I do not see any primary care/family doctor giving an MRI or performing an EEG on an infant (unless there is another sibling with autism). The insurance companies would not agree to pay for such a thing. The benefit of this research that I do see is that if they are able to see brain waves that have a direct correlation with autism AND have the diagnosis from the psychologist the parents can get funding necessary for treatment to be covered by the insurance company. And as you can see, there lies the problem. The insurance companies dont want to pay for more than they need so you would need the psychologist diagnosis first. So if you dont see it till 18mo. or 2yrs or 4yrs then the EEG results will lose its effectiveness for early treatment the later the diagnosis is found. Nevertheless...I welcome more and more research nonetheless.

Anne - posted on 04/27/2011

15

20

0

yes its hard you will have good and tough days in time you will stand proud and say i did well loving uncondinally

Anne - posted on 04/27/2011

15

20

0

its great to see research the reality is that what works for one wont automaticly work for another child the big mistake people make is expecting nothing short of prefection in their children whether they have autism something else or just typicially developed its not a crime to just want happiness and peace and on the whole the human race has screwed up big time on that concept they put all their dreams into adoring mere material things and are we happier I think not im a mum of three boys the two oldest have autism and possiably my youngest I accept them as a whole person and their rights to exist warts and all to be human isnt to be prefect they have taught me love understanding patience Im a better person because of them in my life I look at other nieces,nephews go getters and the older ones are under such pressure they hardly smile anymore to be rich in your soul is far more important than to be rich in your purse and im truely enriched and you learn to be embrassed for those people who just have to stare at special needs kids

Karen - posted on 03/29/2011

25

81

0

that would be great now how do you get your drs to to this my son was diegnoes at 8 with PDD and now he has seen a few different drs i went to a meeting a t school and they have him down as MR with a adhd,pdd,bipolar and because of a recent heart condition they are messing with meds that is making it hell at home and school i wish they could just know for sure what he has and get him on track we could not get the test at first took till 8 now is is almost 15 and he is still battling these behaviors and he is getting to big to handle as aggressive as he is getting .....

Katherine - posted on 03/23/2011

65,420

232

4872

You can intervene BEFORE autistic behaviors appear. They just need the funding and they're set.

Jen - posted on 03/23/2011

79

20

8

Does this mean that there may be a way to intervene in a meaningful way for all people with autism? Could this lead to the same kind of interventional EEG work being done on those with epilepsy? THAT would be exciting!

If you see this, leave this form field blank.
Powered by RESPECT not THUMPS

Join Circle of Moms

Sign up for Circle of Moms and be a part of this community! Membership is just one click away.

Join Circle of Moms