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Autism Diagnosed With a Fifteen Minute Brain Scan

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the 15-minutes-definitely-15-minutes dept.

Medicine 190

kkleiner writes "A new technique developed at King's College London uses a fifteen minute MRI scan to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The scan is used to analyze the structure of grey matter in the brain, and tests have shown that it can identify individuals already diagnosed with autism with 90% accuracy. The research could change the way that autism is diagnosed – including screening children for the disorder at a young age."

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190 comments

Or.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298632)

Counting the number of first posts you get on slashdot

Re:Or.. (2, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299016)

Like ADHD, "Autism" is *HIGHLY* over diagnosed, it's very much big money these days, both for pill companies as well as "therapists". NOTE: I didn't say these "conditions" where fake, I said over diagnosed for the purpose of money.

Re:Or.. (3, Insightful)

Niedi (1335165) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299230)

If I got this right during skimming through the article, the test will produce roughly 20% false positives.
So let's just hope it will not be used for mass screening...

Re:Or.. (2, Interesting)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299618)

Or that, like all good screening tools, it's used as an aid to proper diagnosis rather than the final arbiter of such. There's nothing wrong with mass screening per se so long as you don't rely on it to make the final decision. On the other hand, I wonder what percentage of those false positives are, as GP pointed out, potentially patients who were misdiagnosed in the first instance.

Re:Or.. (2, Interesting)

fractoid (1076465) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299850)

It's even worse than that. It's not 20% false positives - it's 19 out of 20 positives are false. FTFA:

If we’re asking, “If I have autism, will the brain scan find it?,” the answer is an encouraging 90% “yes.” But if we change the question to “If the scan says I have autism, do I have the ASD?,” that number plummets to something like 5%.

In other words, this method is roughly as accurate as:

bool hasAutism(void *data) {
return (rand() % 20) == 3;
}

Re:Or.. (1)

Niedi (1335165) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300020)

It's even worse than that. It's not 20% false positives - it's 19 out of 20 positives are false. FTFA:

This is only true if you scan a random population without any initial suspition for a case of ASD.
Then, with a estimate of some 1% prevalence of ASD roughly 19 out of 20 are indeed false. However I guess (hope) such a scan will only be used in combination with other methods and on persons that are suspected to have ASD.

Re:Or.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299480)

Autism is basically a cluster of behaviors and other factors that often appear together in a child.

Some examples from the Wikipedia article about autism include toe-walking, refusing to be interrupted, making repetitious sounds, compulsive behavior, problem recognizing faces...

Does that sound to you like basically any kid under the age of 10?

Re:Or.. (2, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299830)

Does that sound to you like basically any kid under the age of 10?

Err .. no. And if you ever did a side-by-side comparison, you'd know.

"Any kid under the age of 10" doesn't scratch wallpaper off the wall until their fingers are bloody, for example. Or spend an hour or two bouncing in circles and shouting "La-DEE la-DEE la-DEE" at the top of their voice.

Re:Or.. (0, Troll)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299846)

Some examples from the Wikipedia article about autism include toe-walking, refusing to be interrupted, making repetitious sounds, compulsive behavior, problem recognizing faces...

So breathing (which makes repetitious sounds) is a sign of autism? :-)

Re:Or.. (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300050)

So breathing (which makes repetitious sounds) is a sign of autism? :-)

If your breathing sounds like "laDEE laDEE laDEE laDEE ..." (at about 2/second), yeah, maybe.

Re:Or.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299716)

I think part of the issue is that autism is so wide and encompasses varying scales of behaviour that, to some extent, almost everyone demonstrates some of the indicators. Some demonstrate more than others, and there is a big grey area then where you have the edge cases (the standard test is literally checking behaviours against a list, if you score X you are classified as autistic, if you score 1 point below X, you're not). Really it's just a bunch of psychological conditions that affect your life to a lesser or greater degree, for instance I have great difficulty recognising or remembering faces (one of the indicating behaviours) - this has undoubtedly held me back a little from a social context but for some people it might make little difference, for others it might be a major hindrance in their life.

Re:Or.. (1)

Joreallean (969424) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299924)

Except a lot of cases of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) aren't treated with medication. It's treated with close social therapy designed to help those diagnosed the extra attention they need to develop social skills. What you are seeing is a blurring of the lines between what is considered ADHD and ASD. The symptoms can be very similar in some kids. Also autism is no longer just restricted to the severe cases where the ticks and visual cues are obvious. There is a wide range of levels now and a lot of them don't require any kind of medication if treated properly. Also if you've seen a kid with just ASD on ADHD meds it makes the symptoms much much worse. They tend to become even more reclusive and focused on their ticks.

first (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298638)

first

Re:first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298984)

you are the biggest failure in the world. congratulations for sucking so bad, it's truly an accomplishment. bitch.

Shamans? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298654)

What are the operators of these machines called technically? Shamans?

Re:Shamans? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298674)

What are the operators of these machines called technically? Shamans?

They are probably psychiatrists--pretty much the same thing as shamans.

Re:Shamans? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298768)

There's a pretty big difference between psychologists and psychiatrists.
One of them gets to prescribe drugs.

Re:Shamans? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298874)

psychiatrists are certified MDs.. psychologists are the people who couldn't do anything else in undergrad.

Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Insightful)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298722)

Say you scan 50,000 a year, you'll get 5000 false positives. That means each year you'll have 5000 children who'll have to go through humiliating therapy and have their education severely hampered for no good reason! Of those 50,000, you'd expect only 500 to actually have autism.

Even if you used this as a basis for further testing, You're still putting 10 families through the stress of comprehensive testing for autism for no reason for every 1 family whose child actually has the condition.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Informative)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298736)

aaaaand it says that in the article.

Bleh, I'm not used to actual good reporting on "a new totally amazing test!!!" stories in the media.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298758)

lol u fail

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299752)

you read the article... ?

why would you do that?

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298754)

You're still putting 10 families through the stress of comprehensive testing for autism for no reason for every 1 family whose child actually has the condition.

MRIs are expensive, and autism-like behavior is obvious enough that you can narrow down the group of people you're going to test significiantly before you start testing. Also, for families with one or more kids with behavioral disorders, a 15-minute test usually doesn't qualify as "stress", at least not compared to all the other crap they have to go through.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (1)

Jedi Alec (258881) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298956)

and autism-like behavior is obvious enough that you can narrow down the group of people you're going to test significiantly before you start testing.

Ahhh, so that's why it took till my early twenties before someone even thought of looking in that direction. It was too obvious? ;-)

Honestly, considering the amount of people that get the Aspergers tag slapped on them these days, acting like a jackass is already enough for the "obvious" conclusion that it must be autism-related.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299070)

Imho there is a lot of misinformation, since Aspis are not all the same. I think all this trying to put people into boxes is quite dumb. People should actually try to get to know the other person instead of stereotyping/labeling.
I probably have Asperger's too, because I'm an analyzer and often come to the conclusion that some widely accepted behaviour is often rather stupid. Well, maybe it makes sense in a social evolutionary context. heh.

Anyway, I'm not officially diagnosed. I've done several tests though that suggest that. I think I'm a loving person, I can feel a lot of love and compassion, I just don't go well with the flow. I'm special. Isn't a crime. Once I was thinking about getting diagnosed, but now I think I don't really want to, because I don't want to be put in some box. People are all different.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (4, Funny)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299264)

I probably have Asperger's too, because I'm an analyzer and often come to the conclusion that some widely accepted behaviour is often rather stupid.

Then I must have Asperger's too. I don't go to church, I don't watch sports on TV, I believe that men went to the moon, I believe that heavy use of fossil fuels is causing global warming, and I believe fluor is good for your teeth.

Maybe I was vaccinated when I was a kid.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Insightful)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299904)

Unfortunately, making "self-centered"/immature/blanket statements like that is a hallmark of the condition. No real reflections over other's perspective, just the intellectual realization that other people are different, and do "stupid things" for seemingly no reason.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Informative)

AlexiaDeath (1616055) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299434)

Part of the official diagnosis criteria of any mental disorder is that it needs to cause a significant problem with normal functioning. If it does not cause a problem for you, you wont fit the criteria. Most people in IT have some aspie traits, but you need to know a real Aspie to know what it really means. My significant other is an officially diagnosed aspie and he is severely impaired by it. Things that to normal people do without thinking are hard for him.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299872)

I heard once that many mental conditions, such as autism and aspergers, are effectively "normal" (average) personality traits taken to the extreme. Based on your comment I'm inclined to believe it.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Insightful)

AlexiaDeath (1616055) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300008)

Most psychological disorders are just that. Excessive variants of normal feelings and traits. But aspies are a bit different than just that. Have you ever seen untamed cats? Kittens who grew up without being handled. An aspie is a lot like that as an adult. I feel that this is because when growing up, he lacked some basic skill of understanding the world and world lacked an understanding of him to explain it in a way he could understand. He still lacks that mostly social trait but he has learned to compensate for it mentally. It experience talking here tho, not science, so take it with a grain of salt.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298960)

I wonder how many false positives you can give to a family before they stop believing in modern medicine.

"Your kid is autistic!
No, wait, he wasn't. But he's got ADHD! Nope. A tumor! Nope, that's not it.

*five hours later*

The pox! Nope. ... Plutonium poisoning! Yeee... Nope. ...

Does your kid have any south asian prostitute friend?"

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299864)

The problem is that medicine is nowhere near as exact a science as the common man seems to think. Feeling ill? What symptoms do you have - temperature, cough, aversion to bright light? Congratulations, you have probably one of a thousand different conditions. The next step is narrowing those conditions down, and a lot of the time this does come down to simple statistics, it's more likely you have a common cold than a rare Amazonian flesh eating virus. That, plus the fact that we live in a society where nobody wants to take responsibility - in your example, the doctor's first instinct is probably that the kid's a dick because that's how he has been raised, but they're not allowed to say that to parents. I'm sure doctors would love a machine that you just plug someone into and it says categorically there's nothing wrong they just need to learn to behave properly, but even then I'm sure the parents would disbelieve it and attribute it to something new (and they'll willingly let a snake oil vendor convince them of such because once again it removes their responsibility).

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (1)

daniel_i_l (1655579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300150)

MRIs are expensive, and autism-like behavior is obvious enough that you can narrow down the group of people you're going to test significiantly before you start testing.

In the case of autism, the earlier you get a diagnosis the more effective the treatment will be. So waiting until the child starts showing symptoms isn't ideal. It's better to have a way of testing for autism while the child is still under a year old. That's why it's important to have physiological tests, as opposed waiting for the parents to notice eye contact or social problems.

Much higher (5, Informative)

Mirey (1324435) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298762)

its actually much higher than that. What you're quoting is that 1 in 10 people with autism and given a false negative. Its actually much worse. Out of 10,000 children, 1980 would be found positive, out of which only 90 would have the disease. So only about 5% of people who tested postive would actually be autistic. It says this in TFA.

Re:Much higher (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298994)

I was doing it on the basis of 1 in 100 people in the general population having autism. Seems it's closer to 1 in 170-200 (which are likely the figures they use)

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (4, Insightful)

txoof (553270) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298830)

As you said, this will just be used for further testing. Treatment for autism is very similar for other behavioral abnormalities, so not much will change for the families. If a child has already been singled out for further testing by their teachers/counselors/doctors/family, this will just be another in a set of tests to help further treatment. A child with EBD or Autism receives much of the same interventions at school and home. The interventions are extremely specific to each child; knowing that this child may be autistic gives parents, teachers and doctors a more focused approach to treatment. It directs which bag-of-tricks to start working from. Fortunately, if the child is not actually autistic, but has say Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD), many of the same interventions such as remedial communication skills and socialization skills can be used.

It's not like this test puts a kid into a box with only one possible medication or treatment is offered. Each child's treatment is developed with the parents, teachers and other professionals. Some kids need headphones to walk though the cafeteria, some kids need a special squeeze ball, some kids need slow subtle introductions to complex social situations with highly scripted encounters to help them understand what is going on. This is true for the whole spectrum of EBD/autism disorders. Being able to scan a kid that might be autistic just gives everyone a much better starting place. They have a greater chance of successful treatment if they know which bag to start with rather than just grasping at straws.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (1)

e70838 (976799) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298986)

In fact the 90% accuracy is maybe linked to the fact that 10% of the child diagnosed as autistic do not have autism.
What let you assume the currently used tests are more accurate than 90% ?
Even if the old test was perfectly reliable, having a new test does not mean that it will be the only test, replacing the old one.

False positive are a problem, but the proportion of false positive and false negative is not given. Maybe the test gives only false negative.

Re:Unacceptable false positive rate (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299078)

They only tested 60 people. This is still in its early stages. the fact that 90% had this easily detectable trait is quite compelling. This figure may well improve.

Perhaps the existing tests aren't accurate enough. Nobody will be testing every child for autism. A child that has appears to be developing normally and associating with other children in a typical way is most likely not going to be tested.

Real Humiliation (4, Insightful)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299516)

Therapy's not humiliating. Hell, OT's kinda fun.

Real humiliation is when you're growing up and all the interactions with your peers blow up in your face due to your mind-blindless and inability to read body language or understand personal space, and your classmates ostracize you because they think you're weird, and you don't know what's going wrong. And since there's nothing you know of (because your'e undiagnosed) that differentiates you from your peers or explains why this is happening, you conclude you're getting ostracized because you're some doofy, idiotic, bad person. That, my friend, is real humiliation.

Re:Real Humiliation (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300434)

Or alternatively, skipping that part by spending your entire childhood relating to your classmates as subhuman cretins because, to you, they're behaving completely irrationally - and since you are much, much smarter than most of them (and since you have lots of free time for personal study, much more educated), they believe you. And all the adults tell you that the reason you can't relate to them is because they're too stupid for you, and that you are just that much more mature than them. If you're different, from a human perspective, it seems you must be either better or worse, wether seen through "autistic" eyes or... any other type of eyes.

Re:Real Humiliation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33300720)

Therapy's not humiliating. Hell, OT's kinda fun.

Real humiliation is when you're growing up and all the interactions with your peers blow up in your face due to your mind-blindless and inability to read body language or understand personal space, and your classmates ostracize you because they think you're weird, and you don't know what's going wrong. And since there's nothing you know of (because your'e undiagnosed) that differentiates you from your peers or explains why this is happening, you conclude you're getting ostracized because you're some doofy, idiotic, bad person. That, my friend, is real humiliation.

That's no humiliation, that's self-flagellation. Which is what many of your so-called peers want you to do to yourself, because they, whether they know it or not, are trying to cripple and destroy your mind and soul, not perhaps out of any real anger, or hatred, but simply because they think it's what they need to do.

Really, it's not you, it's them. See, they're the ones with a pathological nature, since they are the ones who lash out and cause harm.

It's true. They're even the ones slapping on this bogus diagnosis because...it's just another way to let them take control. Sorta like how the Riedran Inspired claim it's the Kalashtar who are out to destroy the souls and spirits of mankind...or who the Nazi's blame the Jews. Or how Conservatives attack Liberals for various offenses. Or IOW, the typical "Stop making us hurt you" reaction.

Don't buy into it.

It's bullshit. Even when cloaked in the oh-so-pretty colors of psychiatry. You want to know who needs Therapy? EVERY LAST ONE SINGLE HUMAN BEING. Because we're all screwed up some way, and if not by ourselves, then by others.

Some of us are just screwed up in ways that make life easier for ourselves...but not necessarily for others.

You bastards! you killed kenny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298730)

> the numbers without the disease who test positive = 1,980 of the 9,900 without the disease
> Of the 2,070 with a positive test, only 90 will have the disease which is roughly 4.5%

So. 2070 will have this brain feature identified by the test (positive result). 90 of these will meet diagnostic criteria for autism.

Headline: "Autism Diagnosed With a Fifteen Minute Brain Scan" = totally inaccurate.

I think i'm coming down with something..

Re:You bastards! you killed kenny! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298852)

Headline: "Autism Diagnosed With a Fifteen Minute Brain Scan" = totally inaccurate.

No, the headline is absolutely accurate: It doesn't say "correctly diagnosed." I can diagnose autism within five seconds without even seeing the person; it's just that I've got a 50% false positive and 50% false negative rate. Here's my method: I throw a coin.

Re:You bastards! you killed kenny! (1)

mcvos (645701) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300068)

I can do it more accurately than that. And without any false positives whatsoever! (I might have a few misses, but that's a minority.)

I'm not exactly impressed... (5, Informative)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298770)

They're trumpeting this 90% statistic, but what about the false positive rate? Contrary to standard /. procedure (I know, I know, I'm sorry), I decided to read TFA for an answer, and this is what I found out.

Let’s think of 10,000 children. Of these 100 (1%) will have autism, 90 of these 100 would have a positive test, 10 are missed as they have a negative test: there’s the 90% reported accuracy by the media.

But what about the 9,900 who don’t have the disease? 7,920 of these will test negative (the specificity in the Ecker paper is 80%). But, the real worry though, is the numbers without the disease who test positive. This will be substantial: 1,980 of the 9,900 without the disease. This is what happens at very low prevalences, the numbers falsely misdiagnosed rockets. Alarmingly, of the 2,070 with a positive test, only 90 will have the disease, which is roughly 4.5%.

So it only has a 4.5% true positive rate. Great.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298818)

It may not be a good replacement for behavioural tests, but it may be a good first filter. I guess behavioural tests are more expensive than brain scans, so one could first do a brain scan, and if that brain scan has a positive result, then do a behavioural test. It would mean that of 10,000 people, 10 more would not get a positive diagnosis despite having autism (well, probably actually lower, because the behavioural test will also produce false negatives), and a few people less would get a false positive diagnosis (namely those who would have been false positives from the behavioural tests, but were sorted out be the previous brain scan), but the difference in diagnosis rate would probably be quite small (assuming behavioural diagnosis works well). However the cost difference might be large, since the behavioural test would only have to be done on 2070 people instead of 10,000.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298932)

Trouble is, you don't want 'first filter' tests. False positives of any kind in medicine are incredibly stressful and you want to minimise them. Telling patients that a result is 'probably nothing to worry about' doesn't ease their worries.

Tests and treatments need to do more good than harm. Even if a comprehensive testing regime catches someone who would otherwise be missed, it's not worth it if the 100 false positives make life horrible for the people affected.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299788)

It's always a question of how you sell the result. If you say "The test said there might be something, we have to make further tests to be sure" then of course people will worry. But what's wrong with "the test failed to give a conclusive result, we try another test instead"?

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33300094)

It's all about how it is presented and used. If the test is presented as a way to rule out autism with 90% accuracy and positive results are considered inconclusive, then there is no problem.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (4, Insightful)

Bazman (4849) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298854)

Yep, but that might make it a useful *screening* tool rather than a *testing* tool. You'd then go do proper (ie more specific) tests.

I can get a 99% correct diagnosis rate on autism just by going "not autistic" every time.

I've read the original paper, and its based on a sample of 20 normal and 20 autistic people, I might have another read to see if they've done multiple tests and only picked the significant one. Search for the poster about fMRI responses in a dead salmon for more info...

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

Rigrig (922033) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298880)

That's way too much if you're planning on scanning the entire population looking for autism, but as this article [blogspot.com] notes it could be useful for diagnosis:

The first thing to remember is that this is a scientific paper, and this result is first and foremost of research interest: it provides clues towards the biology, and ultimately the causes, of autism.

But let's suppose you're a clinician and you have someone who you suspect may have autism, but you're not sure. They're a tricky one, a borderline case. You use this system on their brain and it says they are autistic. Should that factor into your decision? It depends. The fact is that rather than an either-or result, the SVM returns a distance from the hyperplane for each brain. You can see this clearly in the plot above.

In my opinion, if you have a borderline case, and the machine says he's borderline, then that's not much help, and it doesn't matter if he's just over the line, or not quite over it. You already knew he was borderline.

But if the machine says that he's deep into the autism space, then I think that is something. It tells you that his brain is very typical of people with autism.

Worse yet... Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

beh (4759) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298892)

The article doesn't show the false positive rate on people that have been diagnosed NOT to suffer from autism...

I hope it doesn't say 90% of them are autism sufferers...

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (4, Insightful)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298926)

So it only has a 4.5% true positive rate. Great

Indeed, it's significantly worse than my (99% true rate) autism diagnosing rock that evaporates if an autistic child holds it.

And my rock takes much less than 15 minutes.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (4, Funny)

Shrike82 (1471633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299802)

While I understand that your post was humerous, I feel somehow compelled to point out that you'd have a 0% true positive rate with your rock, a 0% false positive rate, a 99% true negative rate and a 1% false negative rate.

Hmm, I think I might be autistic myself judging by my inability to resist making this post.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (5, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299908)

Hmm, I think I might be autistic myself judging by my inability to resist making this post.

Here, hold this rock for a second.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300566)

What does it mean if the test taker hurls the rock at the doctor who originally diagnosed them with autism?

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299144)

Yes, the spin is reprehensible on this procedure. Lies, damn lies, and statistics. On the bright side, it appears there is a greater than 80% true negative rate. Still, with autism so rare in the general population, I'd say the results are no better than an average person guessing at a random sample.

Wow. I can say with 80% certainty that you do not have autism... whoop-dee-doo. I guess it's a start, but they really need to refine their testing.

Secondary diagnostic test (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299508)

Which is probably why you use such a test as secondary diagnostic or even only as confirmation test. You don't run such test on the population of children, you only run it on children which are already suspected to have autism. In other word, this is not a scanning test.

Re:I'm not exactly impressed... (1)

tkjtkj (577219) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300266)

You are exactly correct. Applying screening tests to large populations does have a price. Such a test must be 'sensitive' , ie, correctly discover 'positives'. In order to do that, it is then required that a follow-up 'specificity' diagnostic method be used to weed out the false positives. In the case of autism, the only other diagnostic methods involve the very same sort of 'behavioural analysis' upon which we depend (unhappily!) even now. I feel it is bordering upon cruelty to the families involved with this condition to mis-state the true 'bottom line' usefulness of such testing. I am not a psychologist, merely a retired anesthesiologist, and have no direct experience with the disease other than thru the brief periods of peripheral exposure experienced in med school. But there, we did learn about the 'sensitivity vrs specificity' matter, and your presentation here underscores salient features. Thanks for your post! tkjtkj@gmail.com , m.d. ;)

Autism, is it really a disease? (3, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298784)

With Autism being so prevalent in humans you do have to wonder if it is really a disease or mistake, or perhaps either a previous evolutionary step or our next evolutionary step. While people who suffer at the extreme ends of the autistic spectrum would have difficulty maintaining a society, some of the more moderate autistic individuals are leaders in engineering, technology, and science. I do worry that when you diagnose someone with autism there is this natural "I'm broken" feeling along with it, and everyone treats you like you're disabled and thus useless. So I cannot say if being able to identify autism more often is a good or bad thing.

It is interesting, but unsurprising, that they found that ADHD and autism had no link thus far. Based on the symptoms I expect we'll find that if ADHD exists at all that it will be localised around control, while autism is localised around right/left brain communication.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (4, Insightful)

rve (4436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298886)

While people who suffer at the extreme ends of the autistic spectrum would have difficulty maintaining a society, some of the more moderate autistic individuals are leaders in engineering, technology, and science.

You could say the same about cancer. Some leaders in engineering, technology, and science have cancer. That doesn't mean cancer may not really be a disease or that a neoplasm may simply be the next step in our evolution.

It has become fashionable among nerds to identify with Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Rainman to the point anyone who is even remotely socially awkward or left brain oriented to be called autistic, followed by the implication that autism fills an important role in society. The reality is somewhat different. With a few famous exceptions, patients tend to have trouble taking care of themselves - many are profoundly disabled - while actual leaders in engineering, technology, and science tend to have normal mental health. (though many of them may be assholes, but that's another story)

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299616)

Comparing cancer to autism is a really bad analogy. Cancer is a debilitating illness that results in death. Autism is a difference in brain function from the neurotypical that can result in a number of different behaviors - a small minority of which are actually harmful.

The most extreme cases of autism are the ones that tend to get trumpeted around. Assuming that those are the real cases and anyone else is only pretending makes you look extremely foolish.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299818)

You could say the same about cancer. Some leaders in engineering, technology, and science have cancer. That doesn't mean cancer may not really be a disease or that a neoplasm may simply be the next step in our evolution.
The point is autistic traits are beneficial to someone working in those fields. Cancer is not.

The reality is somewhat different. With a few famous exceptions, patients tend to have trouble taking care of themselves - many are profoundly disabled - while actual leaders in engineering, technology, and science tend to have normal mental health.
Hence "spectrum".

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300252)

You develop cancer whether or not you're a highly intelligent creature. Even dogs and cats develop cancer. There is no correlation between higher IQ and cancer (if anything it would be inversely related since lower IQ could mean you're more prone to do the low-paid, dangerous jobs around known carcinogens)

Autism Spectrum Disorders are a range of disorders (not diseases) that you're born with, not something you develop (at least that's the current consensus). ASD-affected people however are either very high functioning (eg. Aspergers) or very low functioning (eg. Severe Autism) on the IQ scales however no consensus as to the validity of those tests has ever been developed as most autistic persons will function highly in a very specific domain (mathematics, memory...) and because it's difficult to communicate with most of them so they might just not understand the test or what they need to do or could possibly be utterly bored with it or just refuse to do it.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300454)

It has become fashionable among nerds to identify with Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Rainman to the point anyone who is even remotely socially awkward or left brain oriented to be called autistic, followed by the implication that autism fills an important role in society. The reality is somewhat different. With a few famous exceptions, patients tend to have trouble taking care of themselves - many are profoundly disabled - while actual leaders in engineering, technology, and science tend to have normal mental health. (though many of them may be assholes, but that's another story)

Do you know anyone who is autistic? I think not. You are counteracting the bullshit of Rainman Autism with the bullshit of Gilbert Grape Autism. The truth is that like all people, most Autistics are somewhere in the middle. I am very involved in Adult Autistic skills classes (where we teach life skills and coping strategies), and my child is Autistic, most of his friends are Autistic (shocking I know, how can he have friends if he is a mouth foaming invalid).

I know it can be frustrating to people who don't identify as Autistic but who are most likely Autistic (Asperger) according to the DSM-IV criteria [cdc.gov], which are plain text, very easy to read and apply. The truth is that Autism is a syndrome, in the literal definition of the word. A set of shared symptoms. As the traits that are part of the syndrome become more valued in our society, more people will identify with them, and see them as part of their core personality. The truth is, if you can't understand facial gestures, you don't make friends easily, you don't care what other people think, you grind on MMOs all day, and you have normal or above intellegence and language development, congratulations, you have the right to say that you have Asperger's... It is a voluntary club, and it is ok if you want to stay in the closet; but I find the people that are most annoyed by the Nerd Asperger boom, are the ones most likely to actually meet the criteria.

I am old school, diagnosed at age 4 because of severe language delays and self destructive repetitive behavior, draconian 1980s special ED, therapies, medication, all of that. As a grown-up I am not a "leader" of science and industry, but I have a what I consider to be a white collar, lucrative software development job, a wife, kids, the house in suburbia, the SUV with leather seats, the whole 9 yards.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298964)

With Autism being so prevalent in humans

Autism is not prevalent at all. The fairly recently introduced class of "autism spectrum disorders" however are, but that's because it's generally a weasel term for "we don't know what the problem is and in fact there may not even be any problem, but let's put a stamp on it anyway" (I'm not a psychiatrist, but my father is and I talked about it with him). My *personal* opinion is that many people who are somehow not very socially minded or otherwise feel like an outlier want to be diagnosed with something that "explains" that fact. However, nobody is great at everything and the fact that you are less good at certain things does not mean that you suffer from a disorder (just like people who aren't good at maths don't suffer from a "calculation spectrum disorder").

It's similar to the ADHD diagnoses in many cases (note: I'm not saying in all cases). There's a wonderful talk [ted.com] by Ken Robinson at TED that touches on this. It's been a while since I watched it, but at one point the presenter talks about a kid (a few decades ago) that did bad at school, never could sit still, was hard to deal with etc and no one could figure out what was wrong with it. Eventually however, it was diagnosed by a smart guy as suffering from the affliction of being a "dancer". They enrolled it in dancing classes and that person grew up to become a very famous dancer and choreographer. He notes that today the kid would probably have been diagnosed with ADHD, but fortunately that "condition" wasn't invented yet back then.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299034)

""we don't know what the problem is and in fact there may not even be any problem, but let's put a stamp on it anyway" (I'm not a psychiatrist, but my father is and I talked about it with him)"

Yeah right, like this qualifies you for saying anything about it. Real severe autism certainly does exist and that there is quite strong evidence that their is in fact a spectrum. See temple grandin:

Now just watching her now she seems "more normal" but you can tell their is something off about her right away and if you had no idea of her developmental history you could easily write her off as just another psychiatrists "fake disorder".

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/temple_grandin_the_world_needs_all_kinds_of_minds.html [ted.com]

Similar to what you get with intelligence, from very stupid to very smart. The idea that things are monolithic (well understood, easily dismissed as nonsense) instead of highly complex and difficult to understand is a huge problem with human understanding of not just autism but human traits and disease in general.

So autism can range in it's severity, since "Autism" is a rubric for a host complicated factors not well understood that leads to all sorts of real life issues.

One of the real issues is

1) Humans are profoundly ignorant, oblivious and stupid at all levels of society
2) If you do not believe this, check out how medicine was practiced in the 1800's and long before that.

Like many things autistic spectrum disorders are over-diagnosed but why why people are diagnosed on the autistic spectrum is in the first place is to get help. People are insanely insanely prejudiced against one another that do not fit the behaviour of the masses and so they become discriminated against in employment and in other avenues of life. So it's little wonder why many people think psychiatry is bunkum, they want the other to be easy to understand and to justify their their ignorance and innate prejudices against others. People want answers to complicated questions within their narrow window of existence, I'm sorry but reality does not work like this for anyone who has actually looked at the history of medicine and psychiatry in particular. Entire generations of people existed in darkness simply because it was beyond their ages understanding and understanding of autism today still suffers from this same phenomenon.

It's easy to to try to discredit something you've never known anyone living with or experience their daily behavior on a regular basis.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299126)

""we don't know what the problem is and in fact there may not even be any problem, but let's put a stamp on it anyway" (I'm not a psychiatrist, but my father is and I talked about it with him)"

Yeah right, like this qualifies you for saying anything about it.

The above is basically what he told me.

Real severe autism certainly does exist

Of course it does, I never denied that.

Like many things autistic spectrum disorders are over-diagnosed

And that was basically my (father's) point (although he believes it very much over-diagnosed).

Like many things autistic spectrum disorders are over-diagnosed but why why people are diagnosed on the autistic spectrum is in the first place is to get help.

The point is that the fact that someone could use help does not necessarily mean that they suffer from a psychiatric disorder (although maybe for some people it's required to get over the mental barrier to seek help). But just like not diagnosing a problem is bad, starting to diagnose every deviation from whatever is perceived as "the norm" as a psychiatric disorder is very bad too. Being different, no matter how badly accepted the difference is by society, is not the same as being mentally ill (although it can obviously be a symptom/indication).

So it's little wonder why many people think psychiatry is bunkum, they want the other to be easy to understand and to justify their their ignorance and innate prejudices against others.

I don't think it's bunkum.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299242)

"The point is that the fact that someone could use help does not necessarily mean that they suffer from a psychiatric disorder"

Yes but disorders are defined in terms of functioning within a society, i.e. without help many people would likely off themselves or possibly in worst circumstances turn to crime, etc.

There may be "nothing" apparently wrong with them but obviously their developmental history took a wrong turn somewhere. You have to understand that people end up in psych system because collectively we are in denial and don't give much of a fuck about the fate of one another, this is a fundamental human problem that is not easily fixed since we've met the enemy and he is us.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299542)

You have to understand that people end up in psych system because collectively we are in denial and don't give much of a fuck about the fate of one another

I'm sure that holds for a number of people (there are also people whose relatives/friends did try to take care of them and simply were not able to handle it). However, I think that defining psychiatric disorders with the purpose of getting socially vulnerable people in the psychiatric system is a very bad approach (now /there's/ a practice that may easily induce people to consider psychiatry to be nonsense).

I'm not saying that such people should not get help, but psychiatry simply does not seem to be the right way, at least not as a first line of help. It can obviously play an important part in the process of getting people back on their feet, although even then I think that psychologists could be more useful and better trained to help than psychiatrists. Psychiatrists are by no means "super" social workers.

Maybe psychiatry is at this point the best alternative there is for such people in certain societies (I'm not convinced it is), but even if that's the case then I believe that confirms what I wrote earlier about the "autism spectrum disorders" (namely that they are not necessarily about people who are mentally ill). Or, to put it terms similar to the ones you used above: it's society and its safety nets that are ill in many of those cases, not those individual people.

I don't think you can fix that situation with psychiatry though, and putting all of those individuals in the psychiatric system is bad both for the system (people who can only be helped via the psychiatric system have to "compete" for the same resources) and for those people (they're not getting the right kind of help).

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (2, Interesting)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298980)

I personally believe that these savants are little more than statistics in action. For every autistic person who can do incredibly complex maths with ease, I'd be willing to bet there are hundreds in academia or research with similar levels of ability. If 1 in 500 regular people are mathematical whizzes, then 1 in 500 people (whose version of autism doesn't affect their thinking in that way) should also be whizzes.

Other times, it's a case of mental disabilities forcing people into certain career paths. Take Dyspraxia and it's more famous cousin Dyslexia. Both of these conditions affect hand to eye co-ordination (Dyspraxia especially). Kids with these conditions get lumped with the fat kids when it comes to being picked last in the playground because. These kids aren't especially likely to take up sports because of this (that's not to say some don't). This is why a larger portion of geeks tend to have this condition compared to the general population.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (2, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299656)

There's another component when it comes to that - the fact that, to such a kid, ordinary team sports may be completely undoable. I excelled at and won contests in long-distance skiing and archery as a child/teen, but since I couldn't intuitively act in concert with the others when playing soccer, say, I just made a mess off it. Not that people really disliked me or laughet at me for this, it just didn't work. This is argumenting from a personal anecdote, I know, just throwing it in there.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299054)

Autism in a mild form may been an evolutionary advantage, which is why it's seems to have a genetic component. It's when this mechanism it goes too far these individuals then are disadvantaged in society.

We've probably had people who register in the Autism spectrum with obsessive interests going way back into prehistory.

Certainly if ASDs are largely genetic, there would have been early humans eidetic memory, and other unusual mental abilities. They could have been encyclopedias of knowledge about what plants are safe to eat, as well as mentally mapping terrain. They may have even been responsible for the origins of language, mathematics, writing -- because sure as hell many of them are making a huge contribution to the human endeavour in modern times through science, engineering and technology. Why not further back in history too?

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299056)

You sound like one of those folks with autism that has no idea what they are missing out on socially. I've met several like that, and all they know is that they are rejected. They've no idea why. They don't know how much fun people have with their social skills. They want society to accept them, but they don't realize how much they reject society.

I think those autistic leaders are as such just because they have it enough to be reject most of the time, but they have it mildly enough that they can spend their time thinking usefully. They rise above their disability, and that is what gives them their strengths. That isn't really a step in evolution, as humans can already do that (rise above, etc) in many other ways.

Re:Autism, is it really a disease? (2, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299436)

I am a "diagnosed" asperger sufferer; as in, every psychologist I've ever met have basically said 'you have asperger' upon taking to me for a few hours, except for the one that suspected schizophrenia. Cue me trying to convince them to focus om my ADD instead of something that can't be treated. I am functional socially, more or less, if I want, but deliberately play up my geek/nerd image in order to have enough leeway to charade myself through life. It helps that I'm good-looking, I think. Here's how I see it: the disconnect from normal socio-emotional interaction, even in mild autism disorders, is severe enough that you on some level can cease to see yourself as human - keeping myself from not doing things that goes against normal human social instinct, like reciprociating feelings and not being childishly selfish, is a constant act of will. There is little to no impulse to do these things - imagine trying to play a character on a stage, faking expressions and gestures; but at the same time, this person is you and the feelings are real. This disconnect makes it easy to think, maybe I'm not human, maybe I'm some sort of goddamn elven changeling/space alien/master race specimen?

woo! (2, Insightful)

maudface (1313935) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298786)

I can only see this as a good thing, I'm on a compsci course and as you'd expect it seems like a good third of the people there claim to have aspergers, most of those seem fairly typical and reasonably socially functional. I'd be *highly* interested to see what this test reveals about them. This isn't to say I don't believe in the condition, I know plenty who have it and exhibit obvious major behavioural patterns and have actual issues with such things, I for one just suspect it's *way* over diagnosed, hell a number of psychiatrists have called me "aspie" after 5 minutes of talking to me, I certainly don't buy it. I just hope this sort of screening will help people who actually need help get the care they need and de-clog the system of hypochondriac nerds who want to feel special.

Re:woo! (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299572)

Asperger is a spectrum disorder, and at the mild end it can alternately be seen as a "neurological-difference-induced personality." This doesn't mean that such high-functioning people doesn't benefit from having self-insight, which is what it's all about - realizing that you function different on the inside. Imagine you are married, but your wife complains about you being cold, distant, self-centered, and staring at her like a dead cod instead of comforting her/resolving arguments? You may be perfectly within the normal functioning range in other, less intimate relationships - like work - and you're not just immature, you can perhaps even intellectually explain why your wife is angry. But you can't give much emotion back to her, leading to a relationship of little tragedies. The normal model of human behaviour would cast you as passive-aggressive or something, but understanding that you are born neurologically different gives you and the people around you the "correct model" to explain why you fail to behave appropriately. No matter how small your problems are.

Re:woo! (1)

maudface (1313935) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299842)

haha, if I stared at my girlfriend like a dead cow all the time due to how extra-ordinarily un-expressionate I am, she just knows that that's how I am,, just the same as how I don't make a big deal of the fact that she doesn't often look me in the eye, as I know she's always found eye contact uncomfortable. You'd think people would get a decent grasp of each other's personalities before getting wed.

Everyone's born neurologically different, I can't say I believe in laying into anyone for being who they are even if it's not classified as a disorder, either way in your hypothetical bizzaro-world scenario the couple would benefit most from some marriage counselling first and foremost, not an aspie diagnosis and an excuse of "I'm emotionally dead because I'm aspie". never mind the fact that aspergers doesn't prevent you specifically from opening up like that, my girlfriend has a rather extreme form of it and emotionally opens up to me with ease, infact she's incredibly emotionally needy sometimes.

I don't think aspergers should be used as a crux to explain narrow symptoms, according to the diagnostic requirements a wide variety of symptoms need to be observed not just "coldness to one's spouse", This clearly isn't always the case in practice though, I know one boy who got diagnosed by a speech therapist simply due to the way he talks (a little flat).

My original point was just that anything that aids the diagnostic process can only be a good thing, obviously this scan is only useful in conjunction with other evidence but it'll help make things clearer than merely the opinions of a psychiatrist alone. A lot of people use the diagnosis as a excuse and I just don't think that's healthy when they're pretty much normal.

Re:woo! (2, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300170)

This would be ideal - but in my experience, there is zero intuitive understanding of asperger behaviour in people who doesn't have it. Zero as in, in all the people with obvious asperger and attendant behavioural problems that I have encountered IRL, none have gotten any understanding from the people around them. "Why does he behave in this bizzare, antisocial way?", "He's straight up evil.", "She's a cold bitch", "He's to smart to relate to us normal people (the standard explanation for my behaviour as a kid)" etc.
When it has affected my friends/family, I have explained to them the (to me) obvious reason behind these people's behaviour - later, they tell me that when they interpreted the persons behaviour in the way I argued they should, they suddenly notice that they are able to predict the former utterly crazy persons reactions in a way that, while still making no sense to them, are at least consistent.

Statistics abuse (0)

galorin (837773) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298792)

The main article is statistically inaccurate. The scan is in reality only 5% reliable if I remember rightly. It is only 90% effective when it comes to real positives, but the prevalence of false positives is so high as to remove any efficacy.

What about prognosis and treatment? (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 3 years ago | (#33298834)

It'd be nice if someone out there would focus on prognosis and treatment of ASD.
Usually ASD is already "almost" easy to diagnose by other means. While treatment is not at all.

Re:What about prognosis and treatment? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298950)

It'd be nice if someone out there would focus on prognosis and treatment of ASD.

Usually ASD is already "almost" easy to diagnose by other means. While treatment is not at all.

this technique could, in theory, spot a population of individuals who have an ASD but are able to operate in the world normally (or near normally) - identifying what it is about these people could be the start of developing a treatment.

assuming enough people are scanned that is

Over hearing about 'in-testing' diagnosis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33298940)

This is quite old, they have been able to test for ADHD/Bipolar/Autistic traits for a long time via MRI now.

I'm starting to get sick of hearing 'hopeful' cures, why don't you tell us about it when it is implemented in all Mental Health facilities FIRST.

Is there enough Helium? (4, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299204)

The research could change the way that autism is diagnosed - including screening children for the disorder at a young age.

      The thing about primary screening tests is that they have to give false positives, due to high sensitivity and lower specificity. It's ok if the test tells you you have HIV when actually you don't. It's NOT ok if it doesn't tell you you have it when you do. The other thing about primary screening tests is that they have to be cheap. This test is far from cheap and in fact consumes limited resources. In some countries there are waiting lists for MRIs.

      Perhaps this test could be used as a secondary screen, if specificity can be proven to be high enough, to screen those doubtful or borderline cases so that they can be correctly diagnosed.

Re:Is there enough Helium? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299514)

I don't understand your reasoning. To me, it would *not* be OK to be told you have HIV when you don't. Besides the social stigma, there are all the further expenses involved with incorrect treatment.

I suspect they test for poison levels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299444)

Is it autism really or rather led poisoning from the many vaccines that infants are subjected too? Don't quote me but 50 years ago in the us there was 1 in 10000 diagnosed with autism while now there's 1 in 33. If I'm right evolution is not to blame here but rather pharmacy greed. I mean there are calculations that the level of led a child is subjected to is more then a 400 pound man can safely process. And psychiatry is inaccurate to say the least if not another capitalist bastard child. You don't see to many Iraquis begging for Prozac though they have plenty of stress in their daily lives.

Re:I suspect they test for poison levels (1)

netsavior (627338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300202)

No, the MRI images the brain, it does not test for imaginary poison, that is the most idiotic thing I have read today. The ONLY study that linked Autism to vaccines was debunked, it was an obvious greed grab by a criminal, who was in fact a greedy pharma wannabee... Andrew Wakefield, the criminal fake scientist [bbc.co.uk] started this bullshit because he had already started the patent process [briandeer.com] for his own "safer" version of the vaccine.

People were not diagnosed before because the classification is fairly new. Because there was no industry around it, because there was no Americans with Disability act to force schools to do something for students with learning disabilities, and because our society was a little bit different. The 1980s saw a culture where "being in therapy" no longer held a stigma, and was often held in pop-culture as a positive thing, so is it any wonder that people who grew up in this new culture with a positive attitude toward psychology had their kids evaluated, whereas the people of the 1950s who grew up in a culture where mental illness was considered shameful did not?

You are right, many people were not diagnosed, at least not publicly... instead they were labeled "retarded" and shipped into group homes, or for the less "severe" they just had to deal with their differences in private.

Anything to speed up the process is welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33299628)

The article specifically mentioned aspergers for a valid reason, it is of course more difficult to see the outward signs of Aspergers in comparison to the more immediate and obvious signs of someone with low functioning autism.

It still suprises me how little understanding many people have of the fact that ASD covers a wide spectrum of abilities.

Whilst the results may not yet be accurate the idea of any such test which may help speed up the process of diagnosis is very much welcomed by anyone who is affected.

Take the situation in the UK as an example:

The process of diagnosis is currently very drawn out here as many healthcare professionals are involved and a huge amoutn of back and forth and interviews / examinations. It doesn't help that they give financial assistance to those with ASD as this makes the local authorities even less likely to give a diagnosis until they have tested all possibilities.

We have been going through this process with our son for the last 18 months and it is likely going to be another few months yet before we have a conclusion. We are thankfully nearly at the end of process though for those starting out I feel a great deal of empathy. To be honest our son could have done with more support two years ago, instead he has had to wait and has been placed in situations which could / should have been avoided if he was able to be diagnosed more swiftly.

From everything I have read on the matter it appears that the intention of this scan is not to replace any specific part of the diagnosis however it may at the very least fast track some for more rapid consideration those with clear indications in the scans. This must surely be a good thing.

As long as it also does not result in those falsely identified as not having the condition going without the support they need (ASD or not) then it can only be a good thing.

A.Parent

Not exactly conclusive. (1)

sarkeizen (106737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299756)

Let me first say that this is great news - if it turns out to be true however following the addage of most published research is false [plosmedicine.org]. It's worth keeping in mind that this has 20 controls, 20 ASD and 19 ADHD - according to the article they could distinguish the ASD diagnoses from the controls and the ADHD but considering that according to the DSM IV autism can have close to 100 unique presentations. I wonder how much this actually demonstrates.

Very False Positive (1)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 3 years ago | (#33299792)

"A new technique developed at King’s College London" ...is not a new technique at all. It is an application of an old, in fact the oldest, analysis technique for structural brain MR imaging....

"uses a fifteen minute MRI scan"... a very common, standard MR brain scan, followed by many hours of counting the voxels (volumetric pixels) in the area of interest. Followed by many more hours of the same, to estimate the reliability using inter-rater testing, necessary due to variations in size, shape, density, etc. of the region examined, between individuals.

Ten years ago applying the technique to corpus collosum imaging rather than the usual grey matter was new. Given that the 'technique' consists of lots of counting, it gets old quickly.

It's becoming more obvious that false statements can be made without risking accusations of ethics violation as long as the publication appears in a non-peer reviewed 'journal'.

Early screening is going to fuel the anti-vaccine (1)

Delusion_ (56114) | more than 3 years ago | (#33300362)

...movement.

If this test does mature into a (much) more reliable diagnostic tool, and can be made accurate enough to be useful, early diagnosis will significantly increase the number of children diagnosed with autism.

I'm sure the anti-vaccine, anti-science contingent will completely misunderstand the issue and blame the increase in autism diagnoses on the H1N1 vaccine, or whatever tomorrow's boogeyman is.

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