New Way to Detect Autism On the Horizon

Traditional Autism Diagnosis

Historically, diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has relied upon factors such as history and behavioral observation with no “biomarkers,” which are measurable substances in an organism that indicate some biological state or condition. However, things might be changing for the better, given recent research by the Amen Clinics.

Traditional testing and screening of Autism has lacked a medical or biological aspect. In place of medical screening have been autism-specific behavioral evaluations by teams of physicians, speech and language pathologists, neurologists, pediatricians, and psychologists. The process usually begins with a concerned parent, who firsts notices their child’s unusual behavioral signs. These include behaviors such as the inability to make eye contact, being unresponsive when called upon by name, or interacting/playing with toys in a repetitive or unusual way.

Obstacles in Testing Autism

With no medical testing to utilize, diagnosing ASD is a difficult task. Symptom expression in those with ASD varies greatly, which is a contributing factor to the problem of testing and diagnosis. For one child could be nonverbal and not partake in social interactions, while another could be quite verbal but dependent on observed, learned speech or social behavior. This symptom variability makes the process much more complex. However, there is approaching a new way of testing ASD that will hopefully decrease the process’ complexity.

New Approach to Autism Screening and Treatment

Amen Clinic researchers and the University of Southern California have conducted a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity patterns in evaluation of ASD. In fact, the study is believed to be the largest analysis of brain SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scans ever performed. With the aid of sophisticated algorithms, researchers were able to pinpoint the areas of the brain that most predicted ASD: cerebellum, anterior cingulate gyrus, amygdala, frontal and temporal lobes.

In their study, they saw increased activity in the areas responsible for obsessive behavior (anterior cingulate) and a decrease in activity in the areas that are associated with learning issues (temporal lobes and cerebellum). By having these SPECT scans, medical professional have an easier time targeting treatment approach based on individual results.

How Neurofeedback Can Help Manage Autism Symptoms

While more and more research regarding SPECT scans and ASD is released, utilize the effective and necessary approaches available. Research supports that neurofeedback can be used as an effective and safe intervention to manage the different symptoms of autism. In fact, in a 2006 study, pre-post analyses showed a 40% reduction in autistic symptoms.

Reported by Science Daily: “Research on autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) shows that neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) can remediate anomalies in brain activation, leading to symptom reduction and functional improvement.”