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Brain Scan Can Detect Autism In Infants

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the early-check dept.

Medicine 166

kkleiner writes "A new study shows that brain scans can detect autism in children as young as 6 months old. Researchers at University of North Carolina's Institute for Developmental Disabilities imaged the brains of 92 children who were at high risk for autism. Scans were performed when the children were 6 months, 1-year, and 2-years old. At 2 years, the age when children are typically diagnosed, 30 percent of the children were found to have autism. The researchers then compared the brain images of the autistic children with the others. They saw differences in the brain's white matter, the axon-laden pathways that transmit electrical signals to distant parts of the brain. Of the 15 pathways analyzed, 12 were significantly different between autistic and non-autistic children."

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166 comments

Not early enough. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142459)

It needs to be detected in utero, so that the fetus can be aborted.

-Rick Santorum

(aka Rick with the silent 'P')

Re:Not early enough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142667)

Readers can also detect autism in first posts.

Re:Not early enough. (4, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142839)

I used to think of eugenics as being cruel, but I've started to sympathize with first poster after having lived next door to a family with an autistic kid. The kid spent the whole day staring silently into a corner and spent all night in very audible screaming fits. Their burden became their unwilling neighbors' burden.

My friend's family was also at the mercy of their extremely well-built and violent retard son. Aside from almost drowning his brother in the backyard pool(a story I mentioned here as AC), he flashed everybody at his brother's birthday party, shot up his whole house with a BB gun, he tried to rape his own mom after getting into the liquor cabinet. They were an otherwise-perfect, well-off family.

Sanctity of life, indeed. "If the fetus is a Downs, grip it out by the crown" is my motto.

Re:Not early enough. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142941)

Holy shit I haven't lol'd this hard on /. in years. Kudos to your +2

Re:Not early enough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143071)

Sure as hell I'd abort the fetus if they knew it was autistic.
Not only are they not productive members of society, they cost the taxpayers millions in entitlements.
There are already too many humans we don't need more broken ones.

Re:Not early enough. (5, Insightful)

budgenator (254554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143651)

Lack of empathy that your displaying is also a frequent symptom of autism.

Re:Not early enough. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143913)

It's not even lack of empathy, it's lack of competence. As someone with Asperger's, and an IQ of 191 - I can safely say the smartest people I have met in my life have had Asperger's, a high functioning form of Autism. If you manage to weed out Autism you will also be weeding out some of the most intelligent minds that would otherwise come. Yes social skills are a bit less, from the perspective of others at least - to those of us with Asperger's (and this is a practically universal view amongst us) socialization is simply a lower form of thought that detracts from greater things. By all means though, I look forward to the day that freaks like like the OP will have produced eugenically manufactured retards being devoured by my Morlock progeny.

Re:Not early enough. (5, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144021)

Horseshit detector clicking rapidly. You may gain credibility, however, by describing to us your socioeconomic background and (approximate) age.

We're not talking about Aspergers, the highest-functioning and probably most abused disability diagnosis aside of ADD (shit, I feel ADD right now. Can I get some Adderall and have an extra 4 hours to take that test? It's the new affirmative action! )

We're discussing pure autism, and for somebody who claims to have a remarkably high IQ, you're pretty ignorant and have no personality or style. You reek of a pseudo-intellectual who can use 4-syllable words. But you're not a special snowflake, and your disability and/or parents' money will get you into that school of choice.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Not early enough. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144097)

Actually I dropped out of highschool, joined the Army managing networks, worked in Redmond writing business intelligence software and invented an energy storage solution about 2.5x the energy density of the best batteries on the market (in super-capacitor form so a limiting circuit is required for battery-like use) for which I am currently setting up a production line. If you missed the whole fucking point of my previous response - "personality" and "style" are chimp-like forms of thought - might as well greet people with an ear-to-ear grin and shoo off anyone offending you by reaching in your pants and lobbing a handful of shit at them - there's a reason you probably couldn't speak to a person with autism if your life depended upon it.
On the other hand, I do agree with the part that this is all about mis-diagnosis. This article is a great example of the view on Autism, there is no mention of the distinctions in brain matter(relative to Autistic vs Non-Autistic, only a description of white-matter without a ratio), what specific regions the differences are in or anything else that might indicate the stance meant to be generated by the author of this article is that Autism is simply something to be treated early that it might never arise rather than having a focus on utilizing the powerful effects. Yes, I would agree that the extreme forms of Autism are bad on the grounds that too much introversion results in a lack of value to society, a lack of ability to learn from society and a generally ineffectual life - however there are things we can do that other's cannot in the same degree - I can read about a paragraph long differential equation and see the answer without thinking about it, in an imperceptibly quick time-frame. I don't know about you, but as someone who's greatest pleasure is scientific research - I couldn't imagine wanting to waste my time with what the rest of you do, it seems like a waste of time and an evolutionary step backwards (and ironically I'm not even calling for the sterilization of the retards - no wonder we aren't on Mars yet, eh?).

Re:Not early enough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144179)

irrespective of your supposed credentials your comment was spot on, especially the Morlock progeny part, lmao.

Re:Not early enough. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144591)

The point is there are a large number of capable people with HFA and Aspergers (although an IQ of 191 isn't really that amazing). Your claim that it's mainly due to misdiagnosis, and effectively that an insignificant number of those people are autistic, should probably have been caught by that horseshit detector you carry around... I'm guessing you're self-trained to ignore it when it's you talking though ;-)

Re:Not early enough. (3, Insightful)

drsmack1 (698392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144063)

>> Yes social skills are a bit less, from the perspective of others at least - to those of us with Asperger's
>> (and this is a practically universal view amongst us) socialization is simply a lower form of thought that detracts from greater things.

I imagine other examples of lower thought that detracts from greater things:

Eye contact
Bathing
Navigation
Hand eye coordination
Moderation
Empathy

And as for "and this is a practically universal view amongst us"

NEWS FLASH: Group of people decide that what makes them different is actually an advantage. Comments from muscle men and goatze at 11.

Re:Not early enough. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143115)

I am extremely disturbed by the lack of compassion in your sociopathic comments and the fact that others voted you up. I am not here start a flame war, but I know a child that is autistic but extremely high functioning. He(six) learned the solar system, computers, and the how the body works at intricate level. He has more knowledge then most adults.

Re:Not early enough. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143291)

You know one child that is autistic but extremely high-functioning. First, is he really hardcore autistic, or just some book-smart kid with poor social skills who was diagnosed with an autistic-spectrum disorder to make excuses for genetic weakness and/or poor parenting? Did mommy spend all her time socializing, working, and trying to lose the baby weight; or did she actually try to bond with the baby? Did she breast-feed the baby? Did the parents care more about their careers and just delegate caretaking duties to some cold, uncaring maid?

Now, disregard the cause. Alternately, was the family affluent enough to be able to throw a gang of high-priced specialists and tools at the child? Did they have the luxury of being able to dedicate more time to the child than other working families? So the child knows about stuff - but what are his idiosyncracies? Can s/he function and relate to their peers? Do they break out in screaming fits? Does the child show signs of hebephrenia or catatonia at times? Food for thought.

-- Ethanol-fueled

Re:Not early enough. (1)

rickla (641376) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143455)

He's a sociopath alright. He doesn't get what responsibility is. You get a severely retarded child, he's your life's work, that's the way it is. To think you have a choice isn't human.

Fuck you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144669)

Fuck you twice.

Re:Not early enough. (2, Insightful)

petman (619526) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143133)

Why don't you go and put a bullet through that kid's head right now? Since you're advocating killing him before he was born, surely him having gone through a few years of life is not worse off than not having gone through life at all?

Re:Not early enough. (4, Interesting)

victorhooi (830021) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143779)

heya,

You do realise that's the sort of rhetoric that only brainwashed religious nutjobs spout, right?

I'm definitely not 100% comfortable with advocating open season for abortions, and I think it's a tragedy whenever it happen, but to declare moral equivalence between abortions and shooting a child is a logical fallacy that only an idiot or a self-deluded fool could commit.

Look, I don't know if you're ever actually worked with autistic kids. I don't mean movie-style Rain Man style, but an actual real flesh and blood kid, complete with temper tantrums, screaming and violent outbursts. If it was your kid, I'm sure you'd still love them, but I can see why some parents would crack.

I used to help teach special needs kids, and on the bad days, even those couple hours a week could be seriously draining.

And also, many of these have a genetic factor - so it's just like hereditary diabetes - the incident rate today is going up, simply because people with the genes are living longer, and having more kids. Diabetes - sure, you can argue it's not a huge deal if you pass it onto all your kids, but other things, like say Huttingtons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huntington's_disease), if I knew I was a carrier, I'd think twice before having my own biological children (there are alternatives to abortion, believe it or not).

Cheers,
Victor

Re:Not early enough. (0)

quenda (644621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144011)

Sanctity of life, indeed. "If the fetus is a Downs, grip it out by the crown" is my motto.

I know a little about disabled kids, and Downs is a piece of cake compared to severe autism.
Downs kids are demanding, but typically cute and lovable, compared to the family-wrecking nightmare that is autism.

Still, we did amnio, and if it was a choice of Downs, or terminate and try again for a chromosomal normal child, it's no contest.

Re:Not early enough (3, Informative)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144217)

Sure as hell I'd abort the fetus if they knew it was autistic.
Not only are they not productive members of society, they cost the taxpayers millions in entitlements.
There are already too many humans we don't need more broken ones.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_figures_sometimes_considered_autistic [wikipedia.org]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_autism_spectrum_disorders [wikipedia.org]

When my 2 year old was showing signs of ASD, we mentioned it to our pediatrician. She pointed out her window to the Johnson Space Center (Houston) and said "don't be too concerned, half the guys over there are autistic, too."

I've had 8 years to philosophize about it, and I still stand by my initial position that, if there were a magic cure that would make my son "normal," meaning just like the middle of the pack people I knew in High School, I wouldn't want it for him. There are already enough "normal" people in the world.

Re:Not early enough (1)

AF_Cheddar_Head (1186601) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144371)

Yes, but I bet yout kid would give anything to be 'normal'. My son is high-functioning autistic and he knows he is different and it broke my heart when he was ten and just wished to have real friends.

Re:Not early enough (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144473)

The label "Autism" is about as descriptive of an individual as the label "Caucasian."

My sons (2, both diagnosed with Autism) are both well aware that they are different - neither of them has yet showed any desire to be normal, or to get normal people to like them.

The future is impossible to predict, we're just trying to equip them the best we can for the 40-ish years of life they're likely to have after we're gone.

Re:Not early enough. (1)

A Nun Must Cow Herd (963630) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144553)

HFA or Aspergers is really very different than the severe autism you are describing - the autistic spectrum is vast. And there are all kinds of problems people have - if you draw the line at autism (including HFA, which can be mild enough to go undetected), what else will be enough? Blindness? Risk of anger issues? A high likelihood of anxiety disorder?

And if six months is fine, how old is too old? Or does age not matter?

A society can be judged by how it takes care of its weak and vulnerable.

Re:Not early enough. (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143011)

It needs to be detected in utero, so that the fetus can be aborted.

-Rick Santorum

(aka Rick with the silent 'P')

He will be Rick the Lionhearted if elected.

But I thought... (2, Funny)

mvdw (613057) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142471)

Immunisation caused autism. Science FTW!

Re:But I thought... (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142485)

Beat me to it!

Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (0, Troll)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142621)

If I can recall correctly, brain scan does introduces radiation into the brain

What are they thinking?

Scanning the little brains of little babies will only do more harm than good to those babies

I do not object of performing brain scan on babies - but on those babies who may have cancer or other fatal illness in order to diagnose their condition

Autism may be serious, but at least, it's not a fatal sickness

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142661)

If I can recall correctly, brain scan does introduces radiation into the brain

Depends on the type. PET scans do have some radiation. The study in question - http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=668180&RelatedWidgetArticles=true [psychiatryonline.org] used diffusion tensor imaging which is a variant of MRI, which uses strong magnetic fields and does't produce any radiation. The technique is essentially harmless.

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (5, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142717)

The technique is essentially harmless.

Except that 30% of those scanned in the study now have autism... coincidence? ;)

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (5, Funny)

Tanktalus (794810) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142889)

The technique is essentially harmless.

Except that 30% of those scanned in the study now have autism... coincidence? ;)

I bet most of that 30% also were exposed to that super-dangerous Dihydrogen Monoxide, too. That's where I'd put my money. After all, some kids have autism without ever being scanned, and most of them were probably exposed to DHMO. Parents give that stuff to their kids like it was water, without ever realising how dangerous it is!

I'd go on, but I have to go take my kids to their swimming class.

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142743)

I think you mean that the radiation produced is non-ionizing, not that no radiation is produced. An important distinction.

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143065)

It's important in an academic sense, but not when trying to explain radiation to the average person. They don't realize just how many things give off some negligible, non-damaging form of radiation, so it's simpler to just explain as "no radiation".

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144033)

... give off some negligible, ... of radiation ...

That lies my original statement --- the radiation from brain scans - except perhaps for MRI --- is that they introduce enough radiation into the brain in order to be able to "read" the result

The amount of radiation introduced in any brain scan is definitely not "negligible"

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144079)

Are you kidding? That's nothing. Technically-minded people on Slashdot have no sense of how much ionizing radiation they're exposed to from perfectly ordinary and unavoidable sources in the course of a day. Forget regular people understanding anything about non-ionizing radiation.

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (2)

quenda (644621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144039)

But even weak magnets have a biological effect. They must do - magnet therapy is a billion dollar industry.
If a $2 ferro-magnet can cure cancer, the massive field of an MRI must be able to cause disease. This relationship is proven by the homeopathic principle.

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144113)

What planet do you live on?

Re:Brain scan introduces radiation into the brain (1)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144309)

No, diffusion tensor imaging is done with magnetism. No radiation is required and there is no risk of cancer or other fatal illness.

Re:But I thought... (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142695)

Don't get your kids vaccines. In the coming resurgance of polio and measles I get the last laugh.

Re:But I thought... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143095)

Until someone with polio gets the flu and coughs on you.

Re:But I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143205)

Aren't you wandering a little too far away from Digg? This is where the smart kids hang out.

Re:But I thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142925)

Little known fact: the superluminal neutrinos emitted by those vaccines can travel closed-timelike curves and cause autism before they are given.

This is one of those things... (5, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142479)

It's like a smoke detector which is telling you your house is already on fire, but can do nothing about putting it out or preventing it from happening.

Might be useful in some way for consulting with parents, but a knife-edge decision there, to decide whether to tell people their child might develop Autism, with the possibility you culd be wrong. While it is interesting information the practice side of how to use it raises some questions.

Re:This is one of those things... (4, Insightful)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142539)

There are a couple questions I have about the study:

1) How close was the correlation between the odd brain scans and incidence of autism? what was the error rate?
2) Can the brain scan be used to predict autism, rather than as a 20/20 hindsight study?
3) If the test does reliably predict autism, how practical is it to put it into use? I can't imagine it would make much sense to do it to every 6-month-old--the cost would be prohibitive, particularly since it's a relatively small percentage of the population which are autistic. Would this become something that is only used for children who have a high risk of developing autism?

/parent of an autistic son

Re:This is one of those things... (5, Informative)

ianbean (525407) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142627)

1) The original research article is open access so you can take a look for yourself. The differences were statistically significant between the two groups (ASD-positive versus -negative) but there isn't enough data to estimate a sensitivity or specificity for using this as a test. 2) It could be a diagnostic test. In theory that would allow potential treatments to begin before the behavioral aspects of ASD manifest (which is around 2yo correct?)

Re:This is one of those things... (2)

Shavano (2541114) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143055)

That presumes there is effective treatment for autism in infants, which there is not. The best you can hope for is to warn the parents what they may be facing.

Re:This is one of those things... (4, Insightful)

tgibbs (83782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144319)

Actually, nobody knows whether there is effective treatment for autism in infants. Until autism can be reliably diagnosed in infants, there is no way to test whether any kind of early intervention will improve outcome.

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142635)

Studying the brain development of infants, who later are diagnosed as having autism, provides important information as to the root causes of autistic. And understanding the root cause is important in creating effective treatments.

Re:This is one of those things... (2)

Fned (43219) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142755)

There are a couple questions I have about the study:

Those sound less like questions about this study and more like questions about the next study that they haven't done yet...

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142963)

3) If the test does reliably predict autism, how practical is it to put it into use? I can't imagine it would make much sense to do it to every 6-month-old--the cost would be prohibitive, particularly since it's a relatively small percentage of the population which are autistic. Would this become something that is only used for children who have a high risk of developing autism?
 

Unless or Until there is a early intervention/prevention treatment, finding these children early seems expensive and not that helpful.

AutismSpeaks [autismspeaks.org] is big on therapy but statistical evaluation of success seems pretty spotty at best, since no two kids are the same, and none of these seem appropriate for autism at 6 months to 1-year, which scans might detect.

Since normal detection typically occurs at 2 years, therapy has at best 12 to 18 months additional time to "work" if scans are performed. But all the therapy in use today was developed for 2 years and up.

The best hope the scans seem to provide is more data for those studying Autism. Not likely to help the patient much.

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

snicho99 (984884) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144815)

Unless or Until there is a early intervention/prevention treatment, finding these children early seems expensive and not that helpful.

Of course there is a chicken and egg type problem there. How do you design effective treatments without reliable diagnosis...?

Not predictive (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143199)

From TFA

At 2 years, the age when children are typically diagnosed, 30 percent of the children were found to have autism. The researchers then compared the brain images of the autistic children with the others. They saw differences in the brain's white matter...

They need to do another experiment. It's not right to look at the scans AFTER you know which ones have a problem. Otherwise you start to "see things" to support the conclusion. They don't really need to re-scan, they could just show all the scans to people who don't know the results and see how well they spot the ones with a problem. Then you can talk about predictive ability of the scans.

Re:Not predictive (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144415)

It IS right to look at the scans AFTER you know which ones have a problem if your goal is to identify differences. An eventual later goal would be to prove that the differences are definitive and useful for diagnosis. That's not what these researchers were doing. RTFA. They don't claim that this IS diagnostic, but that their research results found differences that are interesting, and might lead down the road to predictive tests. They make no claim that it is a predictive test.

Re:Not predictive (1)

metacell (523607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144647)

I haven't checked if the study is double-blind, but if it isn't, it doesn't even prove the differences exist. It's very easy to see differences when you expect them to be there.

Re:Not predictive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144821)

Where did the authors state they have proved the difference exists? They didn't. You didn't check the study at all, let alone to see if it was double-blind. They found something interesting in a small prospective study of 92 infants, only 28 of which met criteria for ASDs, suggesting a correlation might be there, and that rates further investigation.

Re:This is one of those things... (5, Interesting)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143301)

FWIW, this seems to be just the latest in research that has been coming out in the last few years that seem to add to the evidence that autism onset is really early or preterm.

For instance, that this paper that came out in 2005 [ucsd.edu] attempted to more systematically document the early signs of autism by using a longitudinal study which comparing a set of high risk infants (who had an older sibling diagnosed w/ some ASD), with a control set at 6 months, 12 months, and 24 months.

Of course today, autism is defined in terms of behavior. The key is the origin or eitology of autism. Is this odd brain scan an indicator of the origin, or is it something else and this is merely correlated. Nobody knows.

However, we do seem to have strong indication of certain specific chromosomal problems that can lead to autistic behavior: FragileX, Rett Syndrome, and Tuberous Sclerosis. Fragile X and Rett's are X chromosome related. This is suspiciously related to the observation that incidence of ASD are higher in boys and boys only have 1 "X" chromosome. TS is not X related, but can cause calcium deposits to develop in the brain or in some cases tuber-like growths in the brain (as special case, since tuber-like growths occur all over the body w/ this condition).

Because of the accumulated research, many people speculate that there are actually many pathways to autistic behaviour. You might even think of autism as a symptom of many diseases and conditions (like a cough is a symptom of many diseases), so many experts are not optimistic that will be a "cure" for autism, but perhaps in the future there will be a way in some situations to blunt the symptoms early enough to avoid many of the problems in many of the common cases.

Reality is often much more complicated that the headlines.

Re:This is one of those things... (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142609)

It's like a smoke detector which is telling you your house is already on fire, but can do nothing about putting it out or preventing it from happening.

On the other hand, you can get a 2-year jump-start on locking the kid in the attic.

Re:This is one of those things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142619)

Early intervention with autism probably makes a huge difference. I would agree with your assessment if it didn't though.

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142751)

Early intervention with autism probably makes a huge difference. I would agree with your assessment if it didn't though.

If they can positively identify a brain layout that correlates to autism, and then try various early intervention techniques and measure the results, in the future we may be able to say "early intervention definitely makes a huge difference".

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

SmlFreshwaterBuffalo (608664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142663)

I agree that earlier diagnosis might not have much value beyond consultation, and in fact these brain scans might do more harm than good along that line. But the research might yield clues into what causes autism and, although probably too optimistic, maybe even help lead us to a method of preventing the disorder.

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142785)

Not really. There's a reasonable chance that the development of autism could be avoided or minimized if we understand what causes it. Many genetic diseases can be treated (e.g. MSUD [nih.gov], catch it in time and the child can live a fairly normal life).

Re:This is one of those things... (3, Interesting)

Tropaios (244000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142973)

Phenylketonuria and celiacs are both very common with autism. By carefully controlling the diet at a younger age many behaviors might be curbed or avoided altogether. With this as with all medical conditions, the earlier you know the better.

Re:This is one of those things... (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143287)

It's being narrowed down to genetics so hopefully they can identify a gene combination sooner or later. Then potential parents could have a test.

Re:This is one of those things... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143543)

It's like a smoke detector which is telling you your house is already on fire, but can do nothing about putting it out or preventing it from happening.

Yep, exactly like a smoke detector telling you your house is on fire.

You can not have one and die in a fire.

Or, you can have one, hear early enough to do something about it...

For an autistic child, getting a jump sooner rather than later can make a significant difference.

Re:This is one of those things... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143621)

Our son was diagnosed with autism at just under 2 years old and put into early intervention preschool right when he turned 3. Between that and the things we've done at home, we now have a 9 year old he is doing well in a regular ed class with an aide and who will probably be able to graduate high school and get a job and hopefully live on his own some day.

If we would have known at 6 months old we could have gotten started earlier and he would be miles ahead of where he is now. The things that kids learn between 6 mos and 4 years about social skills are just so important, I can't even imagine how big of a deal it would have been for our son to know at 6 months instead of 3 years.

Re:This is one of those things... (3, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144275)

In 2003, they would not even attempt a diagnosis of Autism before age 3, even though all the research was pointing toward early intervention with socialization therapy as highly effective at mitigating the worst of the debilitating effects of ASD.

Getting this diagnosis at 6 months can kick off a course of ABA and socialization focus at a time when it matters most to the child's future.

I just spoke with a surgeon this morning, married to another surgeon, who have a 16 year old son with straight As and no concept of what a friend is - if they had noticed earlier and done something about it, he might (according to the literature) have more of a social life at this point. Maybe he's happy the way he is, but at some point, social withdrawal has a negative impact on the ability to pro-create, and even though children have a negative correlation to happiness, it is sad to not be able to have them if you really want to.

It's at least a clue to the cause (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142531)

If the brain is showing abnormality at birth or close to it then we can at least rule out post-natal causes (e.g vaccines). Perhaps epidemiologists should start looking into diet deficiencies or exposure to toxins during pregnancy.

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (3, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142567)

If the brain is showing abnormality at birth or close to it then we can at least rule out post-natal causes (e.g vaccines).

Well they already have been, but maybe this'll convince the Oprah/Jenny McCarthy/Jim Carey crowd.

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (4, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142715)

Not a chance, they aren't being rational to start with so evidence and facts are irrelevant.

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143305)

Those evil scientists surely faked their data because they were paid by the medial-industrial complex! Where is autismgate?

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142725)

If the brain is showing abnormality at birth or close to it then we can at least rule out post-natal causes (e.g vaccines).

Well they already have been, but maybe this'll convince the Oprah/Jenny McCarthy/Jim Carey crowd.

I don't think you can do anything to convince them. About all you can do is just ignore them enough until they cease to be as vocal about this topic and until they find some other cause célèbre to occupy their time.

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142733)

Ha, no. For that we must resort to pointed sticks, like with all blatantly illegitimate vested interests and their detritus.

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143937)

possibly. thats why you have to identify two separate groups with this same abnormality, administer vaccines to one group and no vaccines to the other,and see if autism becomes more prevelant in the group that receives that vaccines. thats the only way to be sure. until then both pro-and anti-vaccine camps have valid arguments.

Re:It's at least a clue to the cause (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143489)

That does not discount the effect of the vaccines given to the mother on the fetus.

Talk about finding a solution to a non-problem... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142561)

There's absolutely no reason to scan babies that young for autism. You need to wait until 3 years or thereabouts so that they've been through the initial rounds of immunizations.

You might as well give the babies a pregnancy test. It is equally unnecessary.

Differences can be seen at six months looking back (4, Informative)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142579)

The study results do not detect autism (which most people will read as a diagnosis). When looking back over the scans, differences from normal development could be seen starting as early as six months, but this is retrospective after it was diagnosed at the common ages. This study may at least provide some clues on how autism develops even if it doesn't provide a means of diagnosing it earlier.

Re:Differences can be seen at six months looking b (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142669)

Exactly. Next they need to scan another group of babies at 6 months, identify the autistic type scans and see if that predicts autism 2 years out.

Re:Differences can be seen at six months looking b (1)

sdguero (1112795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142981)

True. But perhaps this will put some of the anti-vaccine blowhards to rest.

Irrelevent (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142597)

Test the mothers BEFORE they get pregnant.

Re:Irrelevent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142815)

HIV is already part of standard tests.

No validation cohort (2)

neurogeneticist (1631367) | more than 2 years ago | (#39142723)

They didn't predict anything. They retrospectively reviewed scans and determined a "signature" that correlated with the outcome studied. Without an independent validation cohort, this is interesting but far short of definitive. There are concerns about overfitting with such an analysis technique.

Autism is on the run (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142843)

Once autism can be detected in fetuses, they will be aborted routinely.
Count on it.

Re:Autism is on the run (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143561)

I'd abort faster than you could bat an eyelash if I found out my child was going to develop autism.

Re:Autism is on the run (1)

quenda (644621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144061)

Once autism can be detected in fetuses, they will be aborted routinely. Count on it.

Thankyou Captain Obvious! You saved the day!

Fuck !a trollkore (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142909)

peop7e already; I'm Used to. ShIT ON

Progress! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39142927)

I'm proud to say that I am related to the director of this institute! Amazing discovery and progress! Go Joe!

Prenatal test (2)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39143447)

Assuming autism is mostly genetic (which I don't claim), and assuming they can come up with a prenatal test for it (not this one), would it be moral to abort if a test showed positive for autism?

Re:Prenatal test (1)

WhitePanther5000 (766529) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144397)

If we can find a way to speed up the process of human evolution and artificially select desirable characteristics (and/or prevent undesirable characteristics), I think it would be immoral to not do so. My biggest concern with this specific example, however, is whether we can discern between HFA / Asperger's and low functioning autism... and where that line is.

Re:Prenatal test (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39144517)

Exactly - it's a very wide spectrum. Lumping it all under one category and treating it all the same would only be done by people who have very limited experience with ASD. And deciding where to draw the line would be extremely difficult.

differences can be seen at six months looking back (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39143485)

so the next step is do the study on another group of babies identified with the same pre-autism brain signature, administer NO vaccines, and see if the autism still develops.

People marry early (1)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | more than 2 years ago | (#39144089)

because there are study that marrying and being pregnant late can increase the chance of autism in the child.

There are also there are study that people early marry have higher chance of divorce, bankruptcies, home foreclosure, and delinquent children due to not having the proper financial foundation to begin with.

I don't know much how autism is being treated here in America, but being acquainted with the eastern culture, tiger-mom tactics and oppressive military-style training are quite popular in combating autism in East and South-East Asian countries.

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