But research is still preliminary, expert says
WebMD News from HealthDay
By Tara Haelle
THURSDAY, April 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Sophisticated imaging tests could provide clues to how well a child with an autism spectrum disorder may develop language skills, possibly as early as when the child is just a year old, a new study suggests.
"We discovered that at the very first signs of autism in infants and toddlers, language-important brain regions already displayed striking differences between those who later had good versus poor language outcomes," said study co-author Eric Courchesne, a professor of neurosciences and co-director of the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego.
The findings also revealed brain differences of two possible subtypes of autism, one "language-learning ready" and one not, he said. "The two subtypes likely have different causes, mechanisms, processes, language-learning potential and treatment-responsiveness potential," Courchesne said.
Identifying brain areas linked to children's outcomes could have benefits, but it's too soon to tell, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
"While families may be encouraged by the implications of this study, the reality is that considerable time, money and resources will likely be needed to translate these research findings into meaningful clinical interventions," Adesman said.
"We don't have enough information from a clinical standpoint to consider findings from [functional MRI] studies to be actionable," he added.
The study findings were released online April 9 in advance of print publication in the April 22 issue of the journal Neuron.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 children has an autism spectrum disorder, but this neurodevelopmental condition varies greatly among children. Language performance strongly predicts how well individuals with autism function long-term, Courchesne said.
His team used functional MRI (fMRI) scans to look at the brains of 103 children while they listened to a spoken story. The children were approximately 1 to 2 years old. The study authors noted that this is the youngest age that children can be identified as being at-risk for autism.
source : Brain Scans May Predict Language Skills in Kids With Autism