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British scientists develop scan that diagnoses autism in adults; one for children is next.

Researchers in the UK develop scan that diagnoses autism.

Scientists in the U.K. have developed a brain scan, they say, that can diagnose autism in adults in 15 minutes with 90 percent accuracy?

That's an amazing, mind-boggling assertion, and one that was published today in The Journal of Neuroscience. 

The most exciting aspect of this news is that developers hope it can soon be used to screen children for autism spectrum disorders.

The paper about this groundbreaking news was written by Christine Ecker, MSc, PhD, a lecturer in the Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, and her colleague, Dr. Declan Murphy, professor of Psychiatry and Brain Maturation.

Dr. Ecker has been the lead researcher and project coordinator of the Autism Imaging Multicentre Study (AIMS study). This consortium of prestigious research centers works to map the anatomy and connectivity of brain systems regarding the underlying symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and to investigate the genetic mechanisms of ASD. 
Dr. Ecker is working to establish neuroanatomy as a biomarker for ASD, which may be utilized in the MRI-assisted diagnosis of autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions.

Through an MRI scanner and 3D-imaging techniques, Ecker and her colleagues assessed several aspects of the brain's gray matter: structure, shape and thickness, focusing on the key markers of ASD.

The study was small, but conclusive: 59 male adults aged between 20 and 68 years. Twenty participants had ASD and 19 had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder); the other 20 were healthy controls.

The researchers tested all the participants with the brain scan and 3D imaging and found it to be very effective in identifying the individuals who had already been diagnosed with autism.

This kind of rapid diagnosis of biological markers can be life-changing for many families.

Ecker: "It could help to alleviate the need for the emotional, time consuming and expensive diagnosis process which ASD patients and families currently have to endure."

Every bit of good news regarding autism is welcome. While this certainly bodes well for diagnosis, advancements like this are also essential for eventually finding a cure.

For more information about ASDs, ADHD and other childhood disorders read Alphabet Kids: A Guide to Developmental, Neurobiological and Psychological Disorders for PArents and Professionals.

 

Robbie Woliver is a journalist and editor. He is the author of the book Alphabet Kids.

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