MRI Can Detect Autism Risk in Infants
Researchers say an overgrowth of brain volume—detectable by magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI scan—may determine if a child will be diagnosed with autism. Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are developmental disabilities with behavioral symptoms that vary in severity. Autism usually is suspected between the ages of two and four. Early intervention has been shown to improve outcomes in many children with autism spectrum disorders.
This recent study was small and more research is needed before MRI can be developed into a useful tool for diagnosing infants at high risk for autism. Autism spectrum disorders affect about one in 68 children in the U.S. and the incidence may be as high as one in five among children who have a sibling with ASD.
For the study, researchers performed brain MRI scans on 148 infants—106 of whom were at increased risk due to a family history of autism and 42 at average risk for ASD—between the ages of six and 24 months. They measured overall brain volume and the surface area and thickness of the cerebral cortex in specific regions and discovered an overgrowth of cortical surface area in babies who later were diagnosed with autism.
Image Credit: Thinkstock