New Study May Be Able to Predict Autism Before the Age of 1

Doctors in America have discovered a technique through MRI scan that enables them to predict possible autism in children as early as 12 months old. A recent study used MRI to scan the brains of babies that were considered to be a high-risk for autism. The babies were considered high-risk because they each had a sibling with autism. Having a sibling with autism increases the risk of being diagnosed with the disorder, from one in 100 to one in five.

The babies’ brains were scanned at age six months, again at one year old and again at age two. The study revealed that the babies that were eventually diagnosed with autism showed scans with unusually rapid growth of their brain’s surface area. The brain overgrowth was linked to social symptoms of autism such as delayed language and speech and not engaging in pretend play.

This information resulted in doctors being able to predict 80 percent of high-risk babies that were later diagnosed with autism. Being able to predict autism before symptoms begin to emerge means that early intervention is likely to have a greater impact, because the brain is at its most malleable.

The earliest diagnoses of autism usually don’t come until around two years of age, simply because symptoms do not emerge until around this age. This research means that those babies are identified as high risk before the symptoms emerge. Early intervention can begin even earlier, translating to better long term outcomes for the children that do go on to be diagnosed with the disorder.

Current early intervention behavioural therapies have been beneficial in managing and reducing symptoms, and in some cases erasing symptoms all together. Having the information available for predicting the likelihood of autism means that high-risk babies will see significant benefits from early intervention behaviour therapies.

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