November 6th, 2013
02:11 PM ET
Study: Signs of autism may show up as early as first month
The first signs of autism may be visible as early as the first month of a child's life, according to a study published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.
"These are the earliest signs of autism ever observed," says lead study author Warren Jones.
Researchers at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta followed 110 children from birth to age 3, at which point a diagnosis of autism was ascertained. Fifty-nine babies were considered "high risk" for developing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) because they had siblings with autism; 51 were considered "low risk" because they did not have first, second or third-degree relatives with ASD.
Data was collected at 2, 3, 4 ,5, 6, 9, 12, 15 and 24 months of age. Each time, the children watched videos showing actresses playing the role of a caregiver. "Every baby watched the same videos, and then we could measure what was different about the responses of infants later diagnosed with autism versus infants who were typically-developing," Jones says.
Lack of eye contact is one of the red flags when it comes to autism - a group of neurodevelopmental disorders that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.
Jones, who is the director of research at Marcus Autism Center and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine, says he really expected the children later diagnosed with autism would have diminished eye contact from birth. Instead, he and his colleagues measures how much time each baby was looking at the eyes of the caregiver in the video.
"Basically from birth, (all) babies will look more at the eye part of faces," says Jones. But at about 4 to 6 weeks, he says the attention to eyes decreases, then in typical babies picks up again at 2 months. Jones found, "in the first 6 months of life we're seeing a decline in the amount of looking at other people's eyes in children who later are diagnosed with autism."
The research suggests that a baby's initial eye contact ability may be an almost a reflex-like behavior, but then there may be a second phase of development that depends on different brain and gene systems which lead to social interaction, Jones says. That's where a typically developing child's development may differ from a child with autism.
The study authors conclude that "the observation of this decline in eye fixation - rather than outright absence - offers a promising opportunity for early intervention."
This is not something parents are going to see by just holding their baby, Jones points out. This type of eye-tracking requires sophisticated technology that can track even the slightest movement of the eye.
"It's a very interesting study with intriguing results. " says Wendy Stone, a longtime autism researcher and director of the Research in Early Autism Detection & Intervention (READI) lab at the University of Washington. But, she adds, "many researchers in this field have not seen behaviors under 6 months to be predictive of later diagnosis."
She also cautions that babies looking at videos of their mothers are not the same as the actual stimuli created by a mom interacting with her baby. "Are these babies less interested in eyes because mouths are more interesting to look at and more attractive because there's more movements? To me that's one of the big questions," says Stone.
Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist and autism specialist at the Rainbow and Babies Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, says this new study is a continuation of previous work in babies. He says this research makes sense to him. "There's a decrease in the amount of attention to eyes as an early marker of social behavior (think of it as a primitive level of socialization)." Wiznitzer suggests the failure to establish these early social skills has ramifications later as "social behavior shifts into more sophisticated patterns."
If this research bears out, then maybe at some point a pediatric practice could track eye movements as one way to diagnose a child with autism, says Stone. "But we're really, really far away from that."
Wiznitzer says this may explain why the autism symptoms may be more apparent at 18 to 24 months, "even though 'subclinical' onset was months earlier." He also suggests these study results may offer another explanation why the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which isn't administered until a baby is at least 12 months old, cannot be blamed for causing autism.
Everyone agrees this research needs to be replicated in bigger studies with more children, Wiznitzer says. "The authors are correct that a replication study using a larger number (of children) is necessary. Before that time, I would not devote extensive resources towards assessing eye attention in infants or designing major intervention programs."
Jones says, "what we really want to do is create growth charts for social behavior, just like we have growth charts for charting a child's height and weight." He says these those are the kind of tools that pediatricians need and parents are looking for.
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.
Pretty! This has been an incredibly wonderful article. Thanks for supplying these details.
Incredible! This blog looks exactly like my old one!
It's on a entirely different subject but it has
pretty much the same page layout and design. Great choice of colors!
Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these sl articles and blogs
Having read this I believed it was really informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!
Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!
Right here is the perfect website for anybody who wishes to understand this topic. You realize a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a new spin on a subject which has been discussed for ages. Excellent stuff, just excellent!
Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article! It's the little changes that produce the most important changes. Thanks for sharing!
Your mode of explaining all in this paragraph is really pleasant, every one be able to easily be aware
of it, Thanks a lot.
Iím amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog thatís both educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I came across this during my search for something relating to this.
There's certainly a lot to know about this topic. I really like all of the points you made.
Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this site needs a great deal more attention. Iíll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the advice!
This is really interesting, You're a very skilled blogger.
I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your excellent post.
Also, I have shared your website in my social networks!
Greetings, There's no doubt that your site could be having web browser compatibility problems. When I look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that, fantastic website!
I really love your site.. Very nice colors & theme. Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as Iím attempting to create my own blog and would like to know where you got this from or just what the theme is called. Cheers!
I want to to thank you for this very good read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it. I've got you book-marked to look at new stuff you postÖ
Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this website needs a lot more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the advice!
Aw, this was an extremely good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to create a superb articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I procrastinate a whole lot and don't seem to get nearly anything done.
The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won't fail me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, nonetheless I genuinely believed you'd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something you can fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.
After checking out a number of the blog articles on your web site, I truly appreciate your way of blogging. I book marked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back in the near future. Please check out my web site as well and tell me what you think.
Great article! We will be linking to this particularly great content on our site. Keep up the good writing.
When I initially commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!
Saved as a favorite, I like your web site!
Thanks on your marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, you
might be a great author. I will make sure to bookmark
your blog and will eventually come back later in life. I
want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a nice
Look at my web site laywers
I love what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and coverage!
Keep up the great works guys I've added you guys to blogroll.
Its such as you read my mind! You appear to understand a lot about this, like you wrote the e book in it
or something. I think that you can do with a few percent to power the message house
a bit, but instead of that, this is wonderful blog. An excellent read.
I'll certainly be back.
There is definately a lot to learn about this issue. I like all the points you have made.
This is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate informationÖ Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!
Hi, I do believe your web site might be having internet browser compatibility issues. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however when opening in I.E., it has some overlapping issues. I just wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, excellent site!