Researchers from the University of California found evidence of neural brain activity in infants that predicts autism spectrum disorder in 18 months old infants.
Elsevier published the findings of the study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. Evidence suggests that the identification of early developmental abnormalities in the brain of the babies would allow for improved intervention plans and developmental outcomes for the infant.
So far, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is rarely diagnosed because the symptoms usually arise during childhood. Experts are hopeful that the study would pave towards better outcomes for the child with an autism spectrum disorder. Editor of Biological Psychiatry, Cameron Carter, MD, said,
“Early identification and intervention is the key to getting better outcomes for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.”
The non-invasive technique of electroencephalography (EEG) was used by researchers to measure electrical brain activity in the brain of infants, and it tracked the alpha range neural activity.
The long-range connections in the brain and alpha-range are associated, and the approach was utilized by researchers to integrate brain data. The change in the patterns of neural brain activity could predict autism spectrum disorder in early infancy, the researchers suggest.
Researchers on the study performed EEG measurements of 3 months on a sample of 65 babies. Of these, 36 were at high risk (had an affected older sibling) and 29 infants were at low risk of ASD. The trained medical clinician assessed the infants at the age of 18 months.
Computer modeling predictions correlated with the symptoms of ASD in toddlers that suggests the brain activity predicts autism spectrum disorder and might be a specific marker for the neurodevelopmental problem.
Moreover, the infants who displayed symptoms of ASD had decreased connectivity in their frontal regions and increased connectivity across their right temporal-parietal areas, that are associated with social information processing.
Abigail Dickinson, the author of the study from the University of California, said,
“These findings improve our understanding of the neural differences that precede autism and show which brain regions reveal the earliest signs of disruption. The findings reinforce the idea that the disruption in brain activity predicts autism spectrum disorder, and it is not a consequence.”
Experts suggest the low-cost EEG serves as an appropriate measure to identify the infants displaying borderline symptoms and those at risk of developing ASD, that provides efficient means in early management and intervention plans.