AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Predicting Autism: Study Links Infant Brain Connections to Diagnoses at Age 2

In two previous studies, University of North Carolina researchers and colleagues linked infant brain anatomy and differences to autism diagnoses at age two. Now they show differences in functional connections between brain regions at six months to predict autism at age two.

For the first time, autism researchers used MRIs of six-month olds to show how brain regions are connected and synchronized and then predict which babies at high risk of developing autism would be diagnosed with the condition at age two. A previous UNC-lead study, published in Nature in February, used MRIs to determine differences in brain anatomy that predict which babies would develop autism as toddlers. This paper describes a second type of brain biomarker that researchers and potentially clinicians could use as part of a diagnostic toolkit to help identify children as early as possible, before autism symptoms even appear. 

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