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Researchers study facial structures, brain abnormalities to reveal formula for detection of autism
Date:8/18/2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. Recently, Harvard researchers reported that children with autism have a wide range of genetic defects, making it nearly impossible to develop a simple genetic test to identify the disorder. Now, University of Missouri researchers are studying 3-D imaging to reveal correlations in the facial features and brain structures of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which will enable them to develop a formula for earlier detection of the disorder. The researchers anticipate their work also will reveal genetic clues that can direct additional research. Autism is a brain disorder characterized by a complex of social, communication and behavioral difficulties.

"When you compare the faces and head shapes of children with specific types of autism to other children, it is obvious there are variations. Currently, autism diagnosis is purely behavior based and doctors use tape measurements to check for facial and brain dissimilarities. We are developing a quantitative method that will accurately measure these differences and allow for earlier, more precise detection of specific types of the disorder," said Ye Duan, assistant computer science professor in the MU College of Engineering. "Once we have created a formula, we can pre-screen children by performing a quick, non-invasive scan of each child's face and brain to check for abnormalities. Early detection is crucial in treating children and preparing families."

The U.S. Department of Defense awarded Duan, in collaboration with researchers at the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, a $110,000 grant to create a facial imaging system that will make identical measurements of the faces of children with ASD. Additionally, the NARSAD Foundation, the world's leading charity dedicated to mental health research, awarded Duan the prestigious Young Investigator Award and $60,000 to fund 3-D imaging of various segments of the brain in children with ASD. The proj
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Contact: Emily Smith
SmithEA@missouri.edu
573-882-3346
University of Missouri-Columbia
Source:Eurekalert  

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