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New Study Helps Predict Autism In Babies

Update Date: Feb 16, 2017 08:20 AM EST

New research published on Wednesday by University of Minnesota professors suggest that measuring changes in an infant's brain growth can allow doctors to predict the likelihood of autism in toddler years. The study was published in the journal, Nature.

It can potentially help reduce the severity of autism in children with earlier diagnosis. This could allow earlier training to help them cope with the developmental disorder.

Researchers analyzed MRI scans of 6 months, 12 months and 24 months old children who were at high risk for autism and those who had older siblings with autism. They identified the physical differences in the brains and were able to predict 80 percent of the children in the second high-risk group who met the clinical criteria for autism.

Excessive growth in the size and surface area of the brain proved to be a significant predictor for children aged six and 12 months. Focusing on this brain growth correctly predicted 89 percent of children who did not develop autism.

"We see an increased rate of growth in the outer surface of the brain, the folds, the sort of waviness of the surface that's followed by an overgrowth of the brain in the second year," said co-author Joseph Piven of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill according to CBS News.

According to Herald Net, autism refers to a broad range of brain development abnormalities. It can cause struggle with learning, social interaction and verbal and nonverbal communication. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in 68 children may have autism spectrum disorder.

Symptoms of autism usually occur after children age of one, such as not responding to their names and no eye contact. However, scientists have not proven these early behaviors to be reliable predictors said Jed Elison, study co-author from the University Of Minnesota Institute Of Child Development.

Most children are not diagnosed until age 2 or older when the behavioral signs are clearer. Elison said "We're generating a prediction before the signs of autism can be observed, which is really groundbreaking." Earlier interventions have been proven to reduce severity.

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