Autism detectable in brain long before symptoms appear

Feb 17, 2017

By James Gallagher

Brain scans can detect autism long before any symptoms start to emerge, say scientists.

The earliest that children tend to be diagnosed at present is at the age of two, although it is often later.

The study, published in the journal Nature, showed the origins of autism are much earlier than that – in the first year of life.

The findings could lead to an early test and even therapies that work while the brain is more malleable.

One in every 100 people has autism, which affects behaviour and particularly social interaction.

The study looked at 148 children including those at high risk of autism because they had older siblings with the disorder.

All had brain scans at six, 12 and 24 months old.

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5 comments on “Autism detectable in brain long before symptoms appear

  • My son has ASD, as do I (I suspect – not diagnosed) and other male members of my family. And a quick look into the personalities of some of the most successful scientists in history strongly implies in many of them there may have been high functioning ASD at play as well. I’d give a lot to relieve some of the stresses and troubles my sons Autism has caused us and the suffering and confusion he goes through as a result. However stories like this worry me a bit.

    My son is 9 and for the past 3 years has been absolutely obsessed with computers. He never goes a week without getting bored of the operating system he is using and reinstalling another either on virtual box or on one of his laptops. He has taught himself sound and video editing, he creates his own mods in minecraft and is curious about everything to do with computers. He is in many ways remarkable. In other areas he has difficulty. It’s not easy.

    I realise they are a long way from a ‘cure’ and while I’d love to mitigate his problems with social skills and diet and numerous other factors I’m not sure I’d want to be cured now as an adult let alone take away what fairly dominant personality traits from my son, some of them are superior to his peers. I’m still a little socially awkward around sporty types, I don’t do small talk very well. But I can think more clearly about many things and and in many ways my own ASD has defined everything I’m good at. There is so much I wouldn’t be able to do. I’d probably be better off financially, I’d probably be a bit less weird at parties but I get a little worried about curing my son. I’m glad they are continuing to research this but I don’t think I’d want to do more than moderate the extremes of the condition in my son. We need to think how much the likes of Newton, Alan Turin and others who may well have suffered from this condition have given us and if we can afford to do without it or even to do without the tech support when our computers stop working.

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  • 2
    maria melo says:

    To me me you are a BRILLIANT writer or commenter. I am sorry to aknowledge all your concerns about ASD.It seems some people, despite the diagnosed ASD are/were very useful to their peers and humanity. I am not quite sure if it is ASD that defines people talents, only that we are a “smart” species anyway,, even chimps, as Jane Goodall mentions are pround learners and love to play games it just makes part of our nature?

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  • Thank you maria melo for the kind words,

    I agree we are a mix of different drives both genetic and cultural, I’ve become aware as my son was going through the process of diagnosis that almost every characteristic was also mine. I grew up a Mormon and was sure that the differences between me and many of my peers at school was because of my Mormon upbringing (which would have had some impact), I’m now pretty sure much of it was ASD in retrospect.

    For example the narrow tunnel vision focus that is common in most ASD people was/is the story of my life. I have moved from one obsession to another over my whole life, first drawing, flying, science, astronomy, technology and others. I’m so glad this was the pattern too as each of these things has increased my interests and skills. This type of narrow focus is very ASD and very useful to gaining expertise. It’s helped enormously as a teacher (although other aspects of teaching it certainly makes more difficult).

    I fully support research into this and frankly I suspect any real cure is going to be a very long way off. Many sufferers of Autism struggle to speak of interact in any way with others and I’d certainly support treating this but we’ll need to keep an eye on it as there are many aspects of the ASD I’d not want to get rid of if they could. Just reading the positive article gave me a gnawing feeling of concern. May just be paranoia though.


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  • 4
    maria melo says:

    What separates us from chimpanzees? | Jane Goodall

    I would suggest anyone to hear what Dr. Jane Goodall says about Ai (Love) the 28 female chimpanzee and the interest in learning and play games, not because of the reward, but because she doesn´t like to do errors and loves a good performance (from minute 05.30 to minute 08,00 in the vídeo).
    I´ve watched once a vídeo about Temple Grandin, she is convinced that she has somehow a special “unsocial” skilled person which is an advantage??? (I am not clearly convinced by this argument but curiously once I confessed that people may do all the intrigues they want to because being alone was inconvenient to me, my mum used to say, despite my 3 siblings, I used to play alone, but who doesn´t need to be alone once in a while?) Now that I am growing old and that I am married for the most time of my life, I think I wouldn´t like to be alone…

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