Call 413.540.1234 to
schedule an appointment
CONCERN/EAP: 413.534.2625
CRISIS: 413.733.6661

Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
Resources
Basic Information
Infant Development: How Your Baby Grows and MaturesInfant Parenting: Keeping Your Baby Healthy and HappyInfant Safety: Keeping Your Baby SafeInfant Enrichment: Stimulating Your Baby
More InformationLatest News
Too Many Babies Still Placed on Stomach to Sleep: StudyAnti-Vaccine Family Members, Friends Spur Many Moms to Delay Baby's ShotsIncrease in Survival Without Severe Disability for PreemiesParents of Preemies End Up Just Fine: StudyCharacteristics of Diabetes in Infancy ExploredLow Blood Sugar in Newborns Tied to Brain Problems LaterHealth Tip: Don't Use Sunscreen on NewbornsPicky Eater? It Might Just Be Your Child's PersonalityIs Infant Drug Withdrawal Likelier When Opioids Used With Psychiatric Drugs?Alarms Could Save Children From Being Left in Hot CarsMaking the Most of Childhood Wellness VisitsMRI Approved for Young Infants in Intensive CareCan Fetal Alcohol Damage Be Undone?Impaired Eyesight May Be First Sign of Zika Damage in BabiesHealth Tip: Getting Toddlers to Try New FoodsWidening 'Race Gap' in U.S. Infant DeathsHealth Tip: Are My Toddler's Eating Habits Normal?Probiotic Supplements Failed to Prevent Babies' InfectionsHealth Tip: When Children Grind Their TeethA Baby's Skin No Match for the SunTissue Testing Can Spot Zika at Birth: CDCCould You Raise a 'No-Diaper' Baby?Health Tip: Considering Bed Sharing?Medical Costs Soar for U.S. Babies Born Addicted to OpioidsMany Preemies Don't Struggle in SchoolBabies' Fascination With Faces May Start in the WombEarly Egg Intro May Improve Growth in Young ChildrenSpecial Brain Scans May Predict Autism in High-Risk BabiesAir Mattresses Present a Growing Safety Risk to InfantsSudden Unexpected Infant Deaths May Be Underestimated: StudyCan Sharing Your Bedroom With Baby Come With Risks?Air Mattresses Linked to More Than 100 Infant DeathsDoes Dad Time With Infants Boost Babies' IQ?Hospital 'Baby Boxes' May Help Prevent SIDS in NewbornsEye Problems May Be Tied to Zika, Lab Study SuggestsHealth Tip: Keep Newborns SaferHealth Tip: Storing Breast Milk SafelyNo Fruit Juice Before Age 1, Pediatricians SayNew Device Approved for Esophageal Birth DefectFewer SIDS Deaths in U.S., But Gaps Among Racial Groups RemainBreastfeeding Plays Key Role in Ensuring Healthy Infant GutAnother Reason to Breast-Feed: It's Good for Baby's BellyPAS: Screen Time Affects Speech Development in Young ChildrenReading to Babies Translates Into More Literate PreschoolersA Toddler's Screen Time Tied to Speech DelayBabies Born Addicted to Opioids Often Struggle With LearningSimulation Ups Parent Confidence for NICU DischargeU.S. Toddlers Eat More French Fries Than VegetablesHappy Mom Means Less Colicky BabyMore Wrong-Patient Orders in NICU Versus Non-NICU Ped Units
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Child & Adolescent Development: Overview
Childhood Mental Disorders and Illnesses
Parenting
Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)
Child Development & Parenting: Middle (8-11)

Special Brain Scans May Predict Autism in High-Risk Babies

HealthDay News
by By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jun 7th 2017

new article illustration

WEDNESDAY, June 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say a special type of MRI may someday help doctors predict which high-risk babies might develop autism in their toddler years.

Known as functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI), the scan gives a peek at how different regions of the brain work together. As it turns out, certain areas that are connected also seem linked to autism risk, the researchers said.

The fcMRI allowed the researchers to accurately predict 9 out of 11 high-risk babies who later showed behavioral signs of autism.

"We used functional brain imaging information at 6 months and clinical information from 24 months to figure out if we could identify which high-risk infants would go on to develop autism," said study author Robert Emerson, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The hope is that such a prediction tool could one day be used to identify babies in need of early intervention.

"What we found is exciting, but our findings have to be replicated," said co-senior study author Dr. John Pruett Jr. He's an associate professor of psychiatry, radiology and psychological and brain sciences at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Autism spectrum disorders affect about 1 in 68 children in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Currently, children can't be diagnosed until they're around 2 years old. At that time, behavioral symptoms of the disorder -- such as difficulty behaving, communicating and interacting with others, repetitive behaviors and obsessions -- begin to show.

The earlier a child gets behavioral intervention services, the better the outcome generally, according to the CDC. And a recent study even found that when an intervention was started in babies before symptoms first appeared, those babies had better attention, language, communication and social skills at age 3. The study was presented recently at the International Meeting for Autism Research, in San Francisco.

"There's very little behaviorally that tells us about autism in the first year of life," Pruett said. "It would be very important if we could identify brain-based features early in life. We could identify infants at an even higher risk and get them into studies of infant adaptations of current toddler-age interventions."

The new study included 59 infants considered at high risk of autism because they had a sibling with autism.

"In this high-risk group, there's a 20 percent conversion rate to autism," Emerson said.

The babies underwent fcMRI when they were 6 months old. They were sleeping during the test.

The fcMRI viewed neural activity across 230 different regions in the brain. The researchers looked for areas with coordinated activity, and focused on those connections known to be tied to features of autism -- language skills, repetitive behaviors and social behavior.

The researchers then developed a computer program to help them sort through this information and identify which babies were likely to develop autism, and which would probably not.

Eleven of the 59 babies developed autism. The test and program were able to predict 82 percent of those cases. All of the children who didn't develop autism were correctly identified as unlikely to get the disorder in the toddler years, the researchers said.

Thomas Frazier is the chief science officer of Autism Speaks. He wasn't involved with the study, but reviewed the findings.

"Autism has been thought to be a disorder of connections in the brain, and the fact that the function connectivity MRI is a good predictor of autism helps confirm those suspicions," Frazier said.

"Another interesting thing is that it shows how early in life we can see differences in autism. It's remarkable that they could capture brain changes related to autism at 6 months," he said.

Like the researchers, Frazier said this study needs to be replicated. And he wondered, "Can it be replicated in a way to expand its use beyond high-risk siblings?"

The findings were published June 7 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

More information

Learn more about how autism is currently diagnosed at Autism Speaks.