Brain Scan Could Simplify Autism Screening
A 15-minute brain scan could be all that’s needed to diagnose autism, new research indicates, potentially eliminating the need for time intensive evaluations.
In a study of nearly 60 adults — some of whom were diagnosed with autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and some of whom had no diagnosis — researchers found that results from a brain scan could detect autism with 90 percent accuracy. And they say if the method is successful in adults, there’s no reason to believe it wouldn’t be useful in children as well.
The findings are significant because diagnosing autism is currently a complicated process relying on observation of behavior and accounts from parents and others. By instead looking at pictures of the brain’s gray matter taken from an MRI scan, the researchers were able to pinpoint biological markers of autism rather than rely on personality traits.
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“The value of this rapid and accurate tool to diagnose ASD is immense,” said Dr. Christine Ecker of King’s College London who led the study, which was published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience. “It could help to alleviate the need for the emotional, time consuming and expensive diagnosis process which ASD patients and families currently have to endure. We now look forward to testing if our methods can also help children.”