Quick and cheap autism test a step closer

August 11th, 2010 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 11 (IANS) Screening for autism in adults and children could take just 15 minutes and cost as little as 100 pounds as British scientists have developed a brain scan for the condition.
Researchers at King’s College, University of London, have designed a computer programme that can analyse the shape of brains and say with 90 percent accuracy whether the person suffers from autism.

The breakthrough could mean that children will be diagnosed much earlier allowing for more effective and intensive treatment for the condition, reports the Telegraph.

It could also help diagnose hundreds of thousands of adults known as high functioning autistic worldwide, who presently do not even know they suffer from the condition.

Christine Ecker of the University of London Institute of Psychiatry, said: “The value of this rapid and accurate tool to diagnose ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is immense.”

ASD is a lifelong and disabling condition caused by abnormalities in brain development.

The scientists used an MRI scanner to take pictures of the brain of a number of autism sufferers and non-sufferers.

A separate imaging technique was then used to reconstruct these scans into 3D images so that a computer could look at the structure, shape and thickness of various parts of the brain.

The 3D images of a group of autism sufferers and non-sufferers were compared and the computer worked out the differences that corresponded with ASD.

Until now, diagnosis has mainly relied on personal accounts from friends or relatives close to the patient - a long and drawn-out process hinged on the reliability of this account and required a team of experts to interpret the information.

The new technique could revolutionise this process.

Declan Murphy, who led the research, said the brain regions which show differing sizes include the temporal lobes at the side of the brain and the frontal nodes.

“This is a really big step forward. We aim to have earlier and cheaper diagnosis of children,” he said.

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