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Screening for Autism

March 22, 2011

EEG brain scans may someday allow doctors to identify – and treat – babies at risk for autism.



Spotting latent autism…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Symptoms of autism aren’t clear-cut until at least age two.  But researcher William Bosl of the Children’s Hospital of Boston may have a way to screen babies as young as six months.  His team’s using an EEG, a non-invasive test that measures the brain’s electrical activity.  A computer compared EEGs of autistic kids’ younger siblings, who are at high risk for autism themselves, to those of children with no autism in the family.

WILLIAM BOSL (Children’s Hospital, Boston/Harvard Medical School):

It could pick out with pretty high accuracy which group the kids were in.  So there’s a distinct difference in those signals that reflects something in the neural wiring.


Since only some of the siblings go on to develop full-blown autism, Bosl says there may be a way to steer kids into normal development.  And it’s hoped that new therapies can be developed to do that, if the EEGs can flag the risk early enough.