August 11, 2010
Brain Scans Detect Autism
If you think you are on the autistic spectrum a brain scan might be able to confirm it.
Scientists from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King's College London have developed a pioneering new method of diagnosing autism in adults. For the first time, a quick brain scan that takes just 15 minutes can identify adults with autism with over 90 per cent accuracy. The method could lead to the screening for autism spectrum disorders in children in the future.
The team used an MRI scanner to take pictures of the brain's grey matter. A separate imaging technique was then used to reconstruct these scans into 3D images that could be assessed for structure, shape and thickness – all intricate measurements that reveal Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at its root. By studying the complex and subtle make-up of grey matter in the brain, the scientists can use biological markers, rather than personality traits, to assess whether or not a person has ASD.
One wonders just how much will become detectable about mental processes by using scanning and other brain monitoring technology. How much of our mental life will remain just our private thoughts inaccessible to others?
I don't get excited about any diagnostic test that doesn't publish ALL the relevant classification statistics; things like prevalence and the FALSE POSITIVE RATE. Without these, the press release is just spin.
As a father of an autistic child I am very interested in a more objective diagnostic tool. Too many mental disorders are only diagnosed only with behavioral observations. The problem I see is that multiple causes can present similarly.
Charlie just turned 4 and is almost a year behind on a lot of social abilities. Genetic tests reveal some chromosome damage from his mother. But Charlie's behavior seems to be an extreme version of the personality of a lot of the males on my side of the family.
With a lot of occupational and speech therapy he has started to catch up. He has also been on a gluten free/casein free diet for a year. Perhaps the diet is helping. I would love to have an objective test to see if it was worth the expense. Perhaps the restricted diet just helps by cutting down on the donuts. His repetitive and highly scripted speech patterns have diminished and he is becoming more aware of people in his surroundings.
FASTER PLEASE- and an objective test for ADD while you are at it.