News | October 22, 2013

Research Finds Brain Scans May Aid in Diagnosis of Autism

mri systems clinical trials study university alabama auburn psychology autism
October 22, 2013 — Joint research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Auburn University indicated that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans show signs of autism that could eventually support behavior-based diagnosis of autism and effective early intervention therapies. The findings appeared online in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience as part of a special issue on brain connectivity in autism.
 
“This research suggests brain connectivity as a neural signature of autism and may eventually support clinical testing for autism,” said Rajesh Kana, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology, University of Alabama and the project’s senior researcher. “We found the information transfer between brain areas, causal influence of one brain area on another, to be weaker in autism.”
 
The investigators found that brain connectivity data from 19 paths in brain scans predicted whether the participants had autism with a 95.9 percent accuracy rate.
 
Kana, working with a team including Gopikrishna Deshpande, Ph.D., MRI Research Center at Auburn University, studied 15 high-functioning adolescents and adults with autism, as well as 15 typically developing control participants ages 16-34 years. Kana’s team collected all data in his autism lab at UAB that was then analyzed using a novel connectivity method at Auburn.
 
The current study showed that adults with autism spectrum disorders processed social cues differently than typical controls. It also revealed the disrupted brain connectivity that explains their difficulty in understanding social processes.
 
“We can see that there are consistently weaker brain regions due to the disrupted brain connectivity,” Kana said. “There’s a very clear difference.”
 
Participants in this study were asked to choose the most logical of three possible endings as they watched a series of comic strip vignettes while a functional MRI scanner measured brain activity.
 
The scenes included a glass about to fall off a table and a man enjoying the music of a street violinist and giving him a cash tip. Most participants in the autism group had difficulty in finding a logical end to the violinist scenario, which required an understanding of emotional and mental states. The current study showed that adults with autism spectrum disorders struggle to process subtle social cues and altered brain connectivity may underlie their difficulty in understanding social processes.
 
“We can see that the weaker connectivity hinders the cross-talk among brain regions in autism,” Kana said.
 
Kana plans to continue his research on autism.
 
“Over the next five to 10 years, our research is going in the direction of finding objective ways to supplement the diagnosis of autism with medical testing and testing the effectiveness of intervention in improving brain connectivity,” Kana said.
 
Autism is currently diagnosed through interviews and behavioral observation. Although autism can be diagnosed by 18 months, in reality, earliest diagnoses occur around ages 4-6 as children face challenges in school or social settings.
 
“Parents usually have a longer road before getting a firm diagnosis for their child now,” Kana said. “You lose a lot of intervention time, which is so critical. Brain imaging may not be able to replace the current diagnostic measures, but if it can supplement them at an earlier age, that’s going to be really helpful.”
 
The findings of this study build on Kana’s research collaborations with Auburn that began in 2010. Lauren Libero, graduate student in the Department of Psychology, University of Alabama, assisted in the research.
 
For more information: www.frontiersin.org
 

Related Content

Study Examines Characteristics of Mobile Mammography Patients
News | Mammography | October 18, 2017
Significant differences were found among women receiving mammography at a cancer center versus those visiting a mobile...
Machine Learning Identifies Breast Lesions Likely to Become Cancer
News | Artificial Intelligence | October 18, 2017
A machine learning tool can help identify which high-risk breast lesions are likely to become cancerous, according to a...
Cleveland Clinic Researchers Reveal Biomarker for Guiding Prostate Cancer Treatment
News | Prostate Cancer | October 17, 2017
October 17, 2017 — Back-to-back discoveries from Cleveland Clinic demonstrate for the first time how a testosterone-r
TMIST Mammography Study Opens Enrollment
News | Mammography | October 16, 2017
The Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial (TMIST), the first randomized trial to compare two types of...
FDA Clears Siemens Magnetom Terra 7T MRI Device

FDA Clears Siemens Magnetom Terra 7T MRI Device

Technology | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | October 12, 2017
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared the first 7 Tesla (7T) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device,...
MR Solutions Showcases Multimodality MRI Solutions on Two Continents
News | Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) | October 11, 2017
October 11, 2017 — MR Solutions took their cryogen-free preclinical multimodality...
CyberKnife System Provides Excellent Long-Term Control of Low-Risk Prostate Cancer
News | Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) | October 10, 2017
Accuray Inc. announced that data from a prospective study of 230 men with low-risk prostate cancer showed 98.4 percent...
Guerbet to Participate in French Interventional Radiology Conference
News | Contrast Media | October 10, 2017
Guerbet announced it will be taking part in the 65th edition of the Journées Francophones de Radiologie (JFR) that will...
News | Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) | October 10, 2017
Elekta announced that members of the Elekta MR-linac Consortium reported data related to the advancement of the company...
Overlay Init