Using MRI to diagnose autism

From Science Daily: A recent study of individuals with autism at the University of Utah used MRI to study the strength of connections between the individuals’ left and right brain hemispheres. The study, published in Cerebral Cortex, indicates communication deficiencies in the areas responsible for motor control, social functioning, attention, and facial recognition.

Other than increased brain size in young children with autism, there are no major structural differences between the brains of people with autism and those who do not have the disorder that can be used to diagnose autism on a routine brain MRI. It has been long believed that more profound differences could be discovered by studying how regions in the brain communicate with each other. The study, and other work U of U researchers are doing using diffusion tensor imaging (measures microstructure of white matter that connects brain regions), reveals important information about autism. The advances highlight MRI as a potential diagnostic tool, so patients could be screened objectively, quickly, and early on when interventions are most successful. The advances also show the power of MRI to help scientists better understand and potentially better treat autism at all ages.

“We still don’t know precisely what’s going on in the brain in autism,” says Janet Lainhart, M.D., U of U associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and the study’s principal investigator. “This work adds an important piece of information to the autism puzzle. It adds evidence of functional impairment in brain connectivity in autism and brings us a step closer to a better understanding of this disorder. When you understand it at a biological level, you can envision how the disorder develops, what are the factors that cause it, and how can we change it. “

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One Response to “Using MRI to diagnose autism”

  1. The neural signatures of autism « Thoughts from Be Amazing Learning Says:

    […] recently posted about research at the University of Utah that used MRI to uncover communication deficiencies in […]

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