One of the most magical moments in a parent’s life is perhaps when their baby starts gazing back at them, showing signs of recognition and early socialization. But babies with autism have been found to show different brain responses when someone looks back at them or turns their gaze away from them.
Autism can normally be diagnosed beginning at age 2, since it is during this period that children’s social behaviors begin to emerge and can be observed. As such, determining the potential for developing autism at an earlier age has been very tricky.
A study looked at the brain scans of 54 babies as they reacted to photos of faces switching from those looking directly at them and away from them. The subjects included those who were predisposed to developing autism (i.e., those who have a sibling with autism) and those who had no family history of autism whatsoever. These babies were monitored from 5 months until three years of age.
According to past studies, a normal response would typically be characterized by eye contact with other people. Older children with autism have been observed to have problems maintaining eye contact, and had unusual brain readings when it came to activities involving eye contact.
The results revealed that a more severe type of autism is associated with the inability to hold eye contact. 17 among those diagnosed with autism in the coming years had different brain responses from the 50 who were not at risk for autism and who were also not diagnosed with the condition.