Today, a study was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggesting that autism may be detectable in brain scans at as early as six months of age, indicating that causes of the mysterious condition may be more linked to genetics than previously thought.
The study involved infant siblings of autistic children, considered to be “high risk” due to presence of the condition in their families. MRI images from 92 infants between the ages of six and 24 months were assessed, and researchers found that infants who may have presented with brain abnormalities on the scans were more likely to be diagnosed with autism via standard diagnostic criteria at the age of two.
MRI scans were studied at the six month, one year and two year marks- and 28 of the infants included in the study went on to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
Dr. Nancy Minshew is director of the NICHD Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism at the University of Pittsburgh, and did not participate in the research. However, she says that the findings indicate that the disorder may indeed be far more linked to biological and genetic criteria than previously thought:
“Parents and primary care physician determination of onset of autism or ASD in the second or third year of life is not an accurate assessment of onset. This adds to the evidence that autism develops on its own, so to speak, and not because parents did something or did not do something to cause autism.”
Although the research may not translate into a specific diagnostic test in the future, earlier diagnosis of autism overall could lead to better outcomes overall due to earlier intervention.