Researchers having success in diagnostic tests for autism
Researchers having success in diagnostic tests for autism

30 second autism brain test breakthrough

SCIENTISTS have taken the first step in developing a 30-second brain scan to diagnose autism in children.

The breakthrough would cancel out lengthy sessions with clinicians to come up with a subjective diagnosis.

Autism spectrum disorder is a persistent developmental disorder that affects communication and interaction with other people and symptoms are evident from early childhood. Autism Spectrum Australia last year revised its autism prevalence rates from one in 100 to an estimated one in 70 people in Australia on the autism spectrum.

The new international study looked into using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure the response of children to different environmental cues by imaging a specific part of the brain involved in assigning value to social interactions. The findings have been published in the journal Biological Psychology.

The study success has been welcomed by Queenslanders who support children diagnosed with autism.

"As a parent and carer of a child on the autism spectrum and also someone who works with families who are going through this process, I would be very happy to see a definitive diagnostic tool that would help shorten the time taken and lessen the strain both mentally and financially on families. One of the biggest feedbacks I get from parents is the high number of appointments taken with multiple clinicians at such a high cost and at the end sometimes to only get an inconclusive answer," Jodie Kochman from Ipswich ASD parent and carer support group said.

Autism CRC at the University of Queensland is also currently researching neuroimaging techniques to better understand brain development in children on the spectrum and how to improve outcomes.

"Our test would be a rapid, objective measurement of the brain to determine if the child responds normally to social stimulus versus non-social stimulus, in essence a biomarker for autism," lead researcher Kenneth Kishida, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in the US said.

"Based on our study, we envision a test for autism in which a child could simply get into a scanner, be shown a set of pictures and within 30 seconds have an objective measurement that indicates if their brain responds normally to social stimulus and non-social stimuli." he said.

The researcher believes this approach could also help scientists better understand the brain mechanisms involved in autism disorder as a whole as well as the many variations on the disorder's spectrum.

His team plans to do follow-up studies to identify which additional areas of the brain are involved in the different facets of the disorder to help personalise treatments for patients.