Further research is needed to explain in detail how genes affect the development of brain cell interconnections, but the authors say that future investigation may suggest techniques to intervene early in life with medical treatments.
Neuroimaging tools, such as magnetoencephalography (MEG), a method of mapping the brain's magnetic field, hold the potential of identifying a biological signature of ASDs, so that clinicians might identify autism during early childhood and monitor the effectiveness of treatments.
Regarding therapy, the authors note that the most researched treatments are those based on applied behavioral analysis, which includes intensive, highly structured treatments beginning in early childhood. More recently, those highly structured programs have been combined with other behavioral programs more akin to real-life situations, with increased effectiveness.
Although existing drugs do not treat core symptoms of ASDs, the authors refer to results showing medications may be effective in relieving related symptoms such as irritability and anxiety. Many other proposed and existing treatments, both biological and non-biological, have not been adequately studied.
In sum, say the authors, "no cure for autism spectrum disorders is yet available." However, "outcomes are improved with early detection and intensive treatment." In the future, the authors conclude that advances in early detection and diagnosis will allow more individualized and effective early treatment to alter the course of early behavior and brain development.
|Contact: John Ascenzi|
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia