Given the current plethora of information about two recent studies for diagnosing autism, it seemed only relevant to mention them in this blog. Titles like “Instant Test for Autism,” “First Biological Test for Autism” and “Brain Scans Detect Autism” are all over the Internet and news reports.
The newest test is called the Lange-Lainhart test after the lead researchers Nicholas Lange and Janet Lainhart. Nicholas Lange is an associate professor at Harvard and director of the Neurostatistics Laboratory at McLean, while Janet Lainhart is a researcher at the University of Utah.
The test is used to measure deviation in brain circuitry using a technique called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) with an MRI. Using this technique, the researchers were able to detect autism with 94% accuracy when they measured six aspects of the brain’s circuitry that correlated with clinical symptoms of autism.
Further research is necessary and it will be several years before such a test will be available for everyday use.
In another study, researchers Martha Kaiser, Kevin Pelphrey and others at the Yale School of Medicine found a pattern of brain activity that may characterize the genetic vulnerability for autism.
In this study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to identify “neural signatures” while children with ASD, their unaffected siblings and a control group of children watched animations of biological movement.
These studies are certainly promising and interesting, but the reality is that so many different areas of science are now studying how to best be able to diagnose autism. Some of those studies include:
• A chemical fingerprint in a child’s urine
• A pupil response test
• Abnormal proteins in the saliva of patients
• Eye tracking was used to identify autism at the young ages of 9 and 12 months old.
It will be interesting to see where the future takes us in terms of what will be the future gold standard in diagnosis. For me, it will always be about recognizing what a person can do, what a person can’t do, working to change what can be changed, and accepting what can’t be. The label will never be the person no matter how sophisticated our science gets at identifying the label.
Photo by Blatant News, available under a Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial license.
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Last reviewed: 5 Dec 2010