Researchers from the Columbia University perform a study that reveals significant insight into how certain areas of a child’s brain may reveal the tendency for manifesting symptoms of autism.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers studied the brain activity of 12 language-impaired autistic children and 15 typical children, aged 4 to 17 years old. They made the children listen to recordings of their parents talking and observed the children’s brain activity in the primary auditory complex (hearing) and superior temporal gyrus (language comprehension).
In terms of hearing, no significant difference was observed in terms of brain activity, but when it came to language comprehension, there was a notable greater brain activity among the typical children than the children with autism.
The brain scans of 27 more autistic children were studied using fMRI, and the researchers identified correctly 26 out of the 27 children who have autism, based on the brain scans.
Given the pattern of inactivity observed, brain scans may help in providing a reliable tool for diagnosing autism. Future studies are still needed though to determine whether the results are unique to children with autism versus children with other forms of developmental delay.
The researchers also note the limitations of the study, given that the children studied were school-aged already, whereas children are normally diagnosed with autism at about two years old.
Despite these, the results of this study shed more light on possibly diagnosing autism more effectively in the coming years. Says Dr. Joy Hirsch of Columbia University, "Based on these initial findings, future studies using these or similar fMRI methods may result in an early and objective imaging indicator for autism."
Sources: • June 1, 2011. Lisa Jo Rudy. “New Study Suggests Brain Scans Could Diagnose Autism” Autism.about.com • June 1, 2011. Rick Nauert PhD. “Brain Imaging May Improve Autism Diagnosis” Psychcentral.com • June 1, 2011. Amie Ninh. “Study: Could Brain Scans Help Spot Autism?” Healthland.time.com