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Brain Activity in Children Predicts ASD Symptoms

Oct, 2020

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The researchers used EEG (electroencephalogram) to evaluate the electrical brain activity.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological condition that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person's life. It impacts the nervous system and affects the overall emotional, cognitive, physical, and social health of the affected individual. Common symptoms include difficulty with social interactions, difficulty with communication, repetitive behaviors, and obsessive interests. ASD is rarely diagnosed until symptoms arise, often well into childhood. Early detection, as well as educational and behavioral therapies, may reduce symptoms.

Early detection of such condition makes it easier to plan for adequate care and initiate medical intervention as early as possible to reduce symptoms and improve their developmental outcomes. Now, the research team from the University of California has found evidence of signature brain activity in babies that predict later ASD symptoms at 18 months of age. The research was published in the Biological Psychiatry journal. According to previous research, early screen-time at the age of 12 months increases the risk of evolving autism-like symptoms at the age of 24 months.

The research was conducted to find out the link between the development of autism spectrum disorder and early screen-time at the age of 12 months. During this research, the researchers involved around 65 infants aged 3 months, 36 at high risk of ASD, and 29 with low risk of ASD, with an affected older sibling. The team then used EEG (electroencephalogram) test to evaluate the electrical brain activity. Children were evaluated by a trained physician for ASD when they were 18 months old. Moreover, the team used a computer model to predict the outcome of symptoms based on the neural activity of infants at 18 months. According to the researchers, EEG can be used as a screening tool to identify a higher risk of ASD in infants.

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