Brain scans may someday detect autism
February 22nd, 2011
07:00 AM ET

Brain scans may someday detect autism

Researchers are hoping that by using a common tool for measuring of brain activity in a new way, they may be one step closer to identifying whether  a child is a greater risk for autism.

"We haven't diagnosed autism at this point," says William Bosl, Ph.D., lead author and a research scientist at Children's Hospital Boston. But he says by using an electroencephalogram and new, sophisticated computer programs to analyze the EEGs, he and his co-authors were able to correctly identify with 80% accuracy, which babies were at higher risk for autism and which were not.

Scientists have known for quite some time now that the earlier a child with autism gets therapy, the easier it is to improve language and behavioral skills. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children be screened for autism at the ages of 18 months and 24 months. Here researchers are trying to find markers for autism before a child begins showing signs of autism.

In a new study published Tuesday in the journal BMC Medicine, scientists studied 79 infants. 46 babies had a brother or sister with known autism, which means they themselves are at an increased risk for the neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about one in 110 children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sibling of a child with a confirmed diagnosis of autism has a 1 in 5 chance of also developing the disorder.  These infant siblings were compared with 33 infants with no known family history of autism.

The babies were given EEG's at 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months of age. Researchers strapped a net of 64 electrodes all over a baby's head while it was sitting in its mom's lap and a research assistant was blowing bubbles to hold the child's attention. The electrodes measured actual firings of neurons.  The EEG technique is much easier to use because the baby can be awake and moving and wiggling around, says Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which partially funded this research. Other brain imaging technologies like magnetic resonance imaging would require a baby to be asleep or sedated because they have to be completely still while the test is being done.  "Nobody wants to sedate a healthy infant," says Dawson.

Bosl explains that the new computer algorithms that he developed were able to analyze results of the EEG much better than in the past. He said that, judging by the differences in brain activity, he and his colleagues could detect which babies were in the high-risk group. They say they were nearly 100% accurate when the boys were 9 months old.  They were most accurate with baby girls at age 6 months. Overall, the biggest differences in brain activity were seen at 9 months – which is much earlier than when a child typically shows behavioral problems associated with autism. The differences in brain activity were smaller as the babies got older.

Doctors and scientists not connected to the study are intrigued by the results but caution that this is very early research and not something concerned parents can be looking for as a screening tool for their babies any time soon.

Sarah Paterson, Ph.D., is the director of the neuroimaging lab at the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  She is also looking for early signs of autism as part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study, but her work focuses on differences in brain structure. Paterson says that if the results out of Boston can be confirmed, "It's very exciting because finding an early sign for autism is really the holy grail." But she cautions that a lot more work needs to be done. "This study needs to be replicated by their lab and independent scientists," she says.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer says the researchers have found a "really fascinating technique, that offers a different way to look at the brain." Wiznitzer – a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio – notes that what the study can't tell us is what the differences in brain activity between the two groups of babies actually mean. He, too, is hopeful that further research will provide more concrete information.

Bosl says the first children enrolled in his study are now at 2 and 3 years old, which is the age when  autism usually is diagnosed. This will now allow the researchers to evaluate them for autism and then look back at the brain activity patterns of the children who do fit the clinical criteria for autism.

Bosl acknowledges that if this is very early research, but he believes if the results are confirmed, it may lead to a safe and inexpensive way to detect autism, which would allow intervention before any autistic behaviors appear.
"It'll change the field, if this works," says Bosl. He hopes to expand the number of babies in his study to 200. "The only thing slowing us down right now is funding."

soundoff (756 Responses)
  1. camper trailer repair near me


    May 26, 2021 at 06:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Collision Repair California

    You've made some good points there. I looked on the web for additional information about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this site.


    May 26, 2021 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. truck shops in orange county


    May 26, 2021 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. toy hauler remodel

    Great blog you have here.. It’s hard to find good quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 26, 2021 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. travel trailer frame repair


    May 26, 2021 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. auto paint supplies orange county

    You have made some decent points there. I checked on the internet for more info about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.


    May 26, 2021 at 17:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. window repair orange county

    May I simply say what a relief to find someone who truly knows what they are discussing on the net. You certainly realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people must check this out and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you aren't more popular given that you surely have the gift.


    May 26, 2021 at 20:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Best Diesel Sprinter Repair Service


    May 26, 2021 at 20:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Refrigerator Los Angeles


    May 26, 2021 at 21:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. orange county truck service


    May 27, 2021 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Seats Los Angeles

    Excellent article. I certainly appreciate this website. Thanks!


    May 27, 2021 at 04:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. vinyl wrap motorhome

    An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who has been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch simply because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this matter here on your internet site.


    May 27, 2021 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. orange county rv repair

    Good site you have got here.. It’s hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 27, 2021 at 07:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. watch repair san clemente


    May 27, 2021 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Video Marketing Near Me

    You ought to take part in a contest for one of the most useful websites on the net. I most certainly will highly recommend this site!


    May 27, 2021 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. rv services near me

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It will always be exciting to read content from other writers and use something from their web sites.


    May 27, 2021 at 10:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. rv rentals orange county ca

    I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I came across this during my hunt for something concerning this.


    May 27, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. interstate collision center

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I came across this in my search for something concerning this.


    May 27, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. RV Driver Seats Los Angeles


    May 27, 2021 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. orange county car upholstery

    An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment. I do believe that you need to publish more on this issue, it may not be a taboo subject but typically people don't discuss such issues. To the next! Best wishes!!


    May 27, 2021 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. motor home furnishings


    May 27, 2021 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RV Wraps Orange County


    May 27, 2021 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. truck modification shop near me

    Very good write-up. I absolutely love this website. Continue the good work!


    May 28, 2021 at 01:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. trailer repair near me now


    May 28, 2021 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. trailer maintenance near me


    May 28, 2021 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. rv repair shop near me


    May 28, 2021 at 05:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. rv repair service near me


    May 28, 2021 at 08:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. RV Furniture Los Angeles


    May 28, 2021 at 09:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. motorhome refurbishment


    May 28, 2021 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RV Camera Near Me


    May 28, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. furniture repair orange county

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your information. Your article has really peaked my interest. I'm going to bookmark your website and keep checking for new details about once per week. I subscribed to your Feed as well.


    May 28, 2021 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. solar paint and body


    May 28, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. rv upgrade store


    May 28, 2021 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. rv parts in san diego


    May 29, 2021 at 00:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. mobile rv generator repair near me


    May 29, 2021 at 00:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. rv repair san diego

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just bookmark this web site.


    May 29, 2021 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 2003 Sprinter Ac Repair

    May I simply say what a comfort to uncover somebody that actually understands what they're discussing over the internet. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to check this out and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you aren't more popular since you surely possess the gift.


    May 29, 2021 at 03:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Food Truck Repair Shop Near Me


    May 29, 2021 at 05:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Video Marketing Companies

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I'll just bookmark this page.


    May 29, 2021 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Social Media Marketing Specialist Near Me

    Hello there! I simply would like to offer you a big thumbs up for your excellent information you have here on this post. I am returning to your website for more soon.


    May 30, 2021 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Rv Upholstery

    Your style is really unique compared to other folks I've read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I'll just bookmark this page.


    May 30, 2021 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Content Marketing Company


    May 30, 2021 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. SEO Marketing Agency


    May 30, 2021 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Video Marketing Business


    May 30, 2021 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Video Marketing Services


    May 30, 2021 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Touring Van Repair Shop Near Me


    May 30, 2021 at 18:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. SEO Marketing Experts


    May 30, 2021 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RV Glass Repair Near Me

    Excellent site you have got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    May 30, 2021 at 23:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Satellite Repair Near Me


    May 31, 2021 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. 24 Hour RV Repair Near Me

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!


    May 31, 2021 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.