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New Hope for Early Detection of Autism
Date:5/19/2010

Brain scans of sleeping toddlers show differences in response to bedtime stories

WEDNESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers hope that a simple brain scan performed in infants and toddlers can presage the development of autism, leading to early detection and early intervention.

The test involved using functional MRI to measure brain responses to spoken words in sleeping children.

"We're focusing on this earliest time period, when the brain is still developing and still changing," explained study author Lisa Eyler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. "If we could use this with other markers, we could probably identify people early on and, if we could do that, we'd have a much better chance of helping to make sure that their language development is normal."

The finding is slated to be presented Wednesday at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia.

But another expert pointed out that the study is still extremely preliminary.

"It's a very early study. They have a long way to go before they're actually able to implement a test like this," said Keith Young, vice chairman of research in psychiatry and behavioral science at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple.

Before bringing it to clinics, researchers need to make sure this test isn't detecting other developmental delays such as dyslexia, he noted.

"I wouldn't want to be telling people your kid has autism when the problem is that they're dyslexic," Young said.

And when it is ready for prime time, it probably won't be applicable to all children with autism.

"This is probably not going to be used for wide-scale screening but it could be used for children who we have some sense that they have autism and want to gather more information," said David Amaral, president of the International Society for Autism Re
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