Navigation Links
Brain's Electrical Activity May Help Spot Infants at High Risk for Autism

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- By analyzing patterns in the brain's electrical activity, researchers say they've been able to assess autism risk in children as young as 6 months of age.

Researchers hooked up 79 babies aged 6 to 24 months to an EEG, or electroencephalogram, which records electrical activity in the brain. Forty-six of the infants had an older sibling with an autism spectrum disorder, while the other 33 had no family history of autism.

Children who have a sibling with autism are much more likely to develop autism themselves, explained lead study author William Bosl, a neuroinformatics researcher at Children's Hospital Boston. Prior research has shown that about 20 percent of siblings of children with autism will also develop autism and another 40 to 50 percent will have some characteristics of the disorder, such as repetitive behaviors or problems with social interaction, language or communication, but not the full-blown disorder.

While the children watched people blowing bubbles, researchers measured the babies' brain waves and analyzed the results using computer algorithms. The algorithms can detect subtle patterns in the lines created by EEGs that the human eye might miss, Bosl explained.

When the babies were nine months old, researchers could predict who was in the high-risk autism group -- that is, they had a sibling with autism -- with nearly 80 percent accuracy.

"In this study, we have taken the first step in showing that there is definitive information in the electrical signals measured by EEG to distinguish normal controls from infants at high risk for developing autism," Bosl said.

When broken out by gender, researchers found other differences. For example, at nine months they were able to predict which boys were in the high-risk group with near 100 percent accuracy. But accuracy for girls at that age was only 60 percent, not statistically significant.

At six months of age, however, they could predict the high risk girls with about 80 percent accuracy, though they couldn't do the same for boys that young.

"It seems perhaps they are on a slightly different developmental trajectory," Bosl said.

The study is published online Feb. 22 in BMC Medicine.

EEGs measure brain electrical activity through electrodes attached to the scalp. The technology has been around for awhile -- developed in the late 1920s, it has been used for more than 60 years to detect seizures in epileptics.

But it's the newer, artificial intelligence technology and sophisticated computer algorithms that enabled the researchers to look more deeply into what the EEGs show, Bosl said.

"Artificial intelligence gives us the ability to find patterns we might not find with our own eyes," Bosl said. "One of the difficulties with a disorder like autism is that it's very heterogenous. A very high-functioning person with autism might not be so different from a so-called 'normal' person who is quirky. Defining the differences may be somewhat subtle."

EEGs are also relatively inexpensive, painless and safe, Bosl said. And unlike MRIs, they require no sedation, so testing could be put to widespread use, he said.

"My hope is we would have a simple way of measuring brain activity in every child and see the patterns emerging that might track autism characteristics," Bosl said. "That would be tremendously useful. We know early intervention is extremely important. Right now, for a lot of children, that means 3 years old. What we don't know yet is if you can intervene at 9 or 12 months and how effective that could be."

Dr. Joshua Ewen, a neurologist and director of the clinical neurophysiology laboratory at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, said the study is well done and looks promising, but needs to be replicated.

Also, the study predicted who was at high risk of autism, but it's unknown if those babies actually went on to develop autism, he noted.

"If it can eventually be shown that this technique can reliably identify which children will indeed develop autism, then we will have a valuable tool for early detection," Ewen said. "Early detection continues to be of critical importance, as it opens the door to early intervention, which has been shown to improve outcomes for children with autism."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on autism.

SOURCES: William Bosl, Ph.D., neuroinformatics researcher, Children's Hospital Boston; Joshua Ewen, M.D., neurologist and director, clinical neurophysiology laboratory, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore; Feb. 22, 2011 BMC Medicine.

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Pro Athletes Brains React at Olympic Speed
2. iPhone Memory Aid for Scatterbrains, Aging Baby Boomers and Busy, Forgetful People
3. MessageSolution First in the Market to Offer All-in-One, Integrated Cloud-Based Archiving for Email, File Systems and SharePoint at Novell BrainShare 2010
4. Scientists Tweak Subjects Brains to Alter Their Moral Choices
5. SharpBrains Launches First Brain Fitness Innovation Awards to Recognize Neuroplasticity Pioneers
6. Morphine May Protect Brains of People With HIV
7. SKyPRO Releases Public Beta of GWTalk at BrainShare
8. Blood flows differently through the brains of schizophrenic patients
9. Adolescent brains biologically wired to engage in risky behavior, study finds
10. Gay mens bilateral brains better at remembering faces: York U study
11. Tool manipulation is represented similarly in the brains of the blind and the sighted
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Brain's Electrical Activity May Help Spot Infants at High Risk for Autism
(Date:11/29/2015)... ... November 29, 2015 , ... Doctors who missed a case of mesothelioma ... signs of mesothelioma and push for a diagnosis, especially in people exposed to asbestos. ... here to read it now. , Researchers at Gifu Prefectural Tajimi Hospital ...
(Date:11/28/2015)... ... November 28, 2015 , ... Safe storage for contraceptive devices may ... one from Lakewood, New Jersey and the other from Bradley Beach, New Jersey, there ... save the expense of having to replace NuvaRings more often than necessary. As such, ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... the conversation at the recent 2015 American Dental Association meeting in Washington D.C. revolved ... can help protect a patient’s overall health. The talk stressed the link between periodontal ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... PITTSBURGH, PA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 ... ... to be a safe and convenient way to dispense prescription medications at home, ... safe and effective way to monitor and dispense prescription medications. In doing so, ...
(Date:11/27/2015)... ANGELES, CA (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... MPWH, the No.1 Herpes-only dating ... of 30 (see Table 1-1 ). More than 3.7 billion people under the ... virus type 1 (HSV-1), according to WHO's first global estimates of HSV-1 infection . ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:11/26/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... potential to use SyMRI to find optimal contrast weighting of ... tumor metastases, and has signed a research agreement with SyntheticMR ... the hospital. Using SyMRI, it is possible to generate multiple ... settings after the patient has left, thus making it possible ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... 26, 2015 Research and Markets ( ... "2016 Future Horizons and Growth Strategies in ... Shares, Country Segment Forecasts, Competitive Intelligence, Emerging Opportunities" ... --> --> This new ... Japanese therapeutic drug monitoring market, including emerging tests, ...
(Date:11/26/2015)... , November 26, 2015 ... addition of the "2016 Future Horizons ... of Abuse Testing Market: Supplier Shares, Country ... report to their offering. --> ... the "2016 Future Horizons and Growth ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: