Could An MRI Screen For Autism?

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What if you could detect autism with a simple MRI? For some parents, that might seem like a dream come true and while scientists are see progress in the potential of this method, others in the autism community stress caution.

In an effort to discover how the different hemispheres of the brain communicate, scientists have discovered that MRIs might be able to see the strengths of communication between the two sides of the brain. Comparing the brain activity of individuals with autism with typically functioning individuals found a lack of communication between brain hemispheres in people with autism. This study isn't the first to notice differences in the communication between specific pathways in the brain, it is the first to notice communication differences in the whole brain in people with autism.

There are still many questions to be answered with regard to brain function and communication in people with autism and other autism advocates have other reasons to be skeptical. Laura Bono the former chair of the National Autism Association and member of the board of directors of the autism advocacy group "Safe Minds" expressed concern that the study results showed little more than another expensive test for parents rather than a way to target therapy.

“I would say that if this is geared to, or opens up, any specific avenue to targeted therapy that can help left and right brain communication among certain children for whom that's the pathway to autism, then it should certainly be explored, but I do not see this as being about diagnosis,” said Bono.

Obviously, the research is still in it's early stages, however there are important things to take from this study. First, is the importance of early intervention therapy. Studies have show that early intervention therapy in children with autism reaps big benefits, yet early detection is essential for early intervention. It is encouraging to see progress in autism research on methods of early detection. As research increases, hopefully this will be an important building block.

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