New research shows that doctors may be able to predict autism now at an earlier age than ever using special MRI images of a child’s brain.
Children with a sibling who has autism are thought to have a one in five chance of developing it also. Current diagnostic measures typically detect the condition after two years of age or later when certain signs start to emerge, such as communication or speech issues, or inability to make eye contact.
Results of this new research were recently published in the journal Nature. Here’s what was found:
- The babies’ brains that were scanned (at six months, then at one year and two years old) who showed more rapid growth in the brain’s surface area – or folds of the brain – went on to develop autism.
- The rate of brain volume growth in these children was also highly accelerated. Knowing this led to a swifter and more obvious awareness of many common signs of autism, such as delayed speech and limited social interaction.
- 80% of the 160 babies who were examined and considered high-risk were later given definitive diagnoses of autism at two years old.
“This use of MRI technology to detect autism early on can be quite advantageous,” said Child Neurology Consultants of Austin’s, Dr. Dilip J. Karnik. “The earlier we can identify signs of the disorder, whether it be outward through a child’s behavior, or via these valuable images gathered from brain scans, the sooner we can work on helpful therapies and strategies to ensure the child is successful in their learning and social environments.”
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that most children with autism are not accurately identified until closer to four years of age.