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MEG May Help Diagnose Autism

January 12, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Pediatric Radiology
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MEG May Help Diagnose Autism

Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) process language and sound a fraction of a second slower than children without ASDs, and using magnetoencelphalography (MEG) to measure that delay may become a standardized way of diagnosing autism, researchers in Philadelphia have found. The study appears in the January 8 issue of Autism Research.

“More work needs to be done before this can become a standard tool, but this pattern of delayed brain response may be refined into the first biomarker for autism,” said study author Timothy P. L. Roberts, PhD, in a press release.

In the study, the researchers compared 25 children with ASDs to 17 children without autism. The children with ASDs had an average delay of 11 milliseconds (about 1/100 of a second) in their brain responses to sounds, compared to the control group. Among the children with ASDs, the delays were similar, regardless of any language impairments.

“This delayed response suggests that the auditory system may be slower to develop and mature in children with ASDs,” said Roberts. “An 11-millisecond delay is brief, but it means, for instance, that a child with ASD, on hearing the word ‘elephant’ is still processing the ‘el’ sound while other children have moved on. The delays may cascade as a conversation progresses, and the child may lag behind typically developing peers.”

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