New study shows how autism can be measured through a non-verbal marker

Posted on August 19, 2019

It has been difficult to accurately screen autism in children, when their first signs are present. A trained clinician may be able to detect autism at 18-months or even younger; yet, the average age of a diagnosis of autism in the U.S. is about four years old. Therefore, there is a need for a more objective, non-invasive screening tools that don’t depend on assessing a child’s behavior. One of the big goals of the field is to develop objective neural markers of autism that can work with non-verbal individuals.

People with autism have differences in inhibiting the neural signals in the brain – hence, there is a need to underpin the symptoms like the hypersensitivity to sensory input, which includes differences in processing visual information.

When the human brain is presented with two different images at the same time, the images rock back and forth in awareness, toggling between the left and right eye. Prior research led by Robertson has demonstrated that the autistic brain is slower in switching from one image to the next (also known as slower binocular rivalry) due to differences in inhibitory neural transmission in the brain. In the autistic brain, the neurotransmitter, GABA, has difficulty filtering and regulating sensory signals, including in this case, suppressing one of the images.

The new study used brain imaging to measure the slower rate of binocular rivalry in individuals with autism. With these results, the research team was able to accurately determine if participants had autism and predict the severity of autism symptoms, which were measured using traditional clinical assessments.
This research offers new promise for the way autism is diagnosed – in hopes that for the test to be potentially used to detect autism in pre-verbal children and non-verbal adults and develop it into a screening tool for the condition.

Category(s):Autism spectrum disorders

Source material from Science Daily

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