Brain Imaging May Detect Autism in Two Minutes

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A new brain-imaging technique may be able to detect autism spectrum disorder in just two minutes by revealing the brain’s response to thoughts of self-perspective, according to research published in Clinical Psychological Science.

The brain has a perspective-tracking response to keep track of things like whose turn it is in a game. Previous fMRI studies have showed that people with autism spectrum disorder showed lower responses in the brain when recognizing “your turn” in a game. This led the researchers to search for a biomarker for self-perspective that could be used to diagnosis autism spectrum disorder.

A 2006 study used MRI scanning on participants’ brains as they played a game where they had to take turns. The results showed that the middle cingulate cortex was more active when it was the participant’s turn. This part of the brain distinguishes between the self and others.

In the current study, children viewed 15 images of themselves and 15 additional images of another child who was matched for age and gender. They viewed each image for four seconds in a randomized order.

The control children exhibited a high response in the middle cingulate cortex when they looked at pictures of themselves. In comparison, children with autism spectrum disorder showed a subdued response. The more subdued the response, the more severe the symptoms exhibited by the child.

This difference was only detected with a single-image test. The researchers hope that this brief test will provide an alternative to the hours of observation usually required to detect autism spectrum disorders in children.

Brain Imaging May Detect Autism in Two Minutes
Brain Imaging May Detect Autism in Two Minutes

Scientists have developed a brain-imaging technique that may be able to detect autism spectrum disorder in only two minutes, according to new research published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

The scanning procedure, which reveals the brain's response to thoughts of ‘self-perspective,' offers promising diagnostic potential once more research is done.

In previous research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), scientists found that when it comes to recognizing “your turn” in sports or in a game, people with autism spectrum disorders show a subdued response in the brain. In fact, the more subdued the brain's response to self-perspective, the more severe the autism symptoms.

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