UK Scientists [lead researchers Drs. Christine Ecker and Declan Murphy] from King’s College (London), have developed a new computer coupled brain scan procedure that can detect Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in adults. There is no known single cause for ASD, which affects just under 1% of all newborns in the US, 50% more boys than girls. This complex brain disorder is associated with impaired social interactions and communications, which manifests itself during the first three years of life. While unknown at present, ASD is considered to be genetic in origin- either the result of mutations or combinations of various genetic variants.
The new brain scan analysis is aimed at making scientific diagnosis more direct; it is hoped this procedure will replace the more complex current process involves clinicians monitoring the patient via a series of assessments. The price is projected to be on the order of $ 150, rather than the $ 3000-5000 for clinical evaluation. (Biological testing is also considered to be more objective than a subjective series of clinical evaluations.)
This MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan (taking about 15 minutes) is coupled with a new computer program that constructs 3D images. The brain scans look identical to the naked eye; it’s the computer algorithm that detects the subtle differences in the regions of the brain that are associated with language and social behaviors. These brain abnormalities have a distinctive pattern; we do not yet understand what their significance depicts (other than diagnostic). Although this test sample was small (40 adults; ½ diagnosed with ASD), the accuracy approached 90%.
The next step is to determine its utility in children. We know that early diagnosis and intervention provides significantly improved outcomes (the goal is to develop social bonding and eye contacts; one new promising augment is the administration of oxytocin. Given a viable, early diagnosis, it is presumed that treatments will then be rendered to help alleviate the ASD symptoms and allow the child to develop a more normal lifestyle.