MRI scans of the brain may help scientists better understand autism

Bloomberg News reports that a MRI-based “method may help speed up detection and add to knowledge of” autism’s “biological base,” according to a paper in Autism Research.

“‘We, for the first time, are able to begin to really see what is going on in the brain in children who have autism,’ said Janet Lainhart, an associate professor at the University of Utah, in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News. ‘That is usually the beginning of major advances in recognition, treatment, and prevention.'”

Indeed, “previous studies using different types of scans have been able to identify people with autism” but, said co-author Nicholas Lange of Harvard, “no one has looked at it [the brain] the way we have and no one has gotten these type of results,” the CNN “The Chart” blog reported.

“By scanning the brain for 10 minutes using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers were able to measure six physical differences of microscopic fibers in the brains of 30 males with confirmed high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.

The images of the brains helped researchers correctly identify those with autism with 94 percent accuracy.”

Marguerite Colston, vice president of constituent relations for the Bethesda, Maryland-based Autism Society, an advocacy group that raises awareness about the disorder, said the organization hopes studies like this will ultimately lead to earlier diagnosis of autism for all children.

Currently, the average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. is 4 years old. The group is striving to cut the age of diagnosis in half, she said.

Researchers plan to further study and develop the test. Additional studies are also needed to see if the test will work in those who are younger and in those whose autism symptoms are more severe, the researchers said.

Maybe this type of research will not only help with the diagnosis and early treatment of autism (and related disorders), but also help us find the real cause or causes (which clearly are not vaccines).

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