TUESDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that shows the electrical activity of the brain, might be used to spot autism in children, a new study suggests.
The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard University Medical School, looked at the synchronization of brain activity across different brain regions, as measured by EEG.
"These scientists used sensors to record electrical brain activity across many different regions on the scalp," explained Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer at the advocacy group Autism Speaks. "They then looked at the extent to which brain activity from one region was synchronized with brain activity from another region," a phenomenon known as "EEG coherence," said Dawson, who was not involved in the research.
"Synchronization between different brain regions indicates that those regions are functioning in a coordinated, rather than independent, fashion -- in other words, they are functionally connected and communicating with each other," she said.
In the new study, Dr. Frank Duffy and Dr. Heidelise Als compared EEG measurements of nearly 1,000 children with and without autism. They found that the two groups had widespread differences in terms of brain connectivity.
EEG revealed that the children with autism had a reduced short range connectivity, indicating poor function of local brain networks. This was especially true in the left hemisphere regions of the brain responsible for language.
The children with autism also had increased connectivity between brain regions that were farther apart, which might be a mechanism developed to compensate for reduced short range connectivity, the researchers said.
The research was conducted at Boston Children's Hospital and was published online June 25 in the journal BMC Medicine.
The use of EEG-based testing may help diagnose autism in children and may improve early detection in infants, l
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