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Brain's Electrical Activity May Help Spot Infants at High Risk for Autism - featured February 22, 2011

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[Source: Health Day/Tufts Medical Center]

By analyzing patterns in the brain's electrical activity, researchers say they've been able to assess autism risk in children as young as 6 months of age.

Researchers hooked up 79 babies aged 6 to 24 months to an EEG, or electroencephalogram, which records electrical activity in the brain. Forty-six of the infants had an older sibling with an autism spectrum disorder, while the other 33 had no family history of autism.

Children who have a sibling with autism are much more likely to develop autism themselves, explained lead study author William Bosl, a neuroinformatics researcher at Children's Hospital Boston. Prior research has shown that about 20 percent of siblings of children with autism will also develop autism and another 40 to 50 percent will have some characteristics of the disorder, such as repetitive behaviors or problems with social interaction, language or communication, but not the full-blown disorder.

While the children watched people blowing bubbles, researchers measured the babies' brain waves and analyzed the results using computer algorithms. The algorithms can detect subtle patterns in the lines created by EEGs that the human eye might miss, Bosl explained.

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Tags: News of the Week Autism Newsletter 25 February 2011