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EEG: a new tool for early diagnosis of autism


A new EEG test has been developed which may be able to diagnose autism in children. EEG, electroencephalography, shows electrical activity in the brain using a series of electrodes attached to the scalp. Electrical fluctuations within the neurons of the brain can be detected. This gives researchers and physicians a picture of any abnormal or substandard activity within the brain. It is used for diagnosing epilepsy, brain tumor, and brain damage after a stroke. Now researchers think it could indicate risk for autism.

A misbalance of electrical activity in the brain

Children with autism tend to show a poor short range connectivity in the left hemisphere of the brain. This is the hemisphere responsible for language. Autistic children have a reduced ability for communication. This leads to the impression of abnormal behavior, rigidity of interest or repetitive behavior. There appears to be some compensation or misbalance in the brain since there is an increase connectivity in regions that are further apart. MRI testing has been inconclusive.

EEG consistently revealed misconnections

“EEG coherence is used to assess functional connectivity within the brain. Across all the age groups we tested, a set of 40 coherence measurements reliably and consistently distinguished between children with ASD and their cohorts,” explained Dr. Frank Duffy and Dr. Heidelise Als of Boston Children’s Hospital.

The differences in children with autism were significant. There were much shorter distances needed between the electrodes and this was especially apparent in the left side of the brain. Coherence increased on long distances.

Testing for early diagnosis, intervention

The test can be used to diagnose children with autism or even to check infants with no known symptoms. This should help parents and health care providers prepare for the future and devise a plan for early intervention.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, BMC Medicine

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