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Brain's Magnetic Fields Reveal Language Delays in Autism
Date:11/30/2008

4 children aged six to 15 at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Thirty children had ASDs, the rest were age-matched, typically developing control subjects.

The MEG machine has a helmet that surrounds the child's head. The researchers presented a series of recorded beeps, vowels and sentences. As the child's brain responded to each sound, noninvasive magnetic detectors in the machine analyzed the brain's changing magnetic fields.

When sounds were presented, the MEG recorded a delay of 20 milliseconds (1/50 of a second) in the brain's response for children with ASDs, when compared with healthy control subjects. "This delay indicates that auditory processing is abnormal in children with autism, and may lead to a cascade of delay and overload in further processing of sound and speech," said Roberts. "Further research may shed light on how this delay in processing sounds may be related to interconnections among parts of the brain." Other testing, measuring a response to mismatched or changed sounds, found longer delays, up to 50 milliseconds (1/20 of a second).

Because autism disorders range across a spectrum of functional abilities, explained Roberts, neural signatures based on brain responses may allow clinicians to more accurately diagnose which subtype of ASD an individual patient has. Such diagnoses may be possible at an earlier age if future studies show that such signatures are detectable in infancy-at younger ages than in the children involved in the current study. "Earlier diagnosis of ASDs may allow clinicians to intervene earlier with possible treatments," said Roberts.

Furthermore, added Roberts, if a patient's neural signature overlaps with that found in another neurological condition, such as epilepsy or attention- deficit hyperactivity disorder, for which a treatment exists, that patient may benefit from such a treatment.

The National Institutes of Health, th
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
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