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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Media, Autism, and Brain Scans

Following yesterday's post about autism screening, a new story has popped up. From US News HealthDay:

A type of brain imaging that measures the circuitry of brain connections may someday be used to diagnose autism, new research suggests.Click here to find out more!

Researchers at McLean Hospital in Boston and the University of Utah used MRIs to analyze the microscopic fiber structures that make up the brain circuitry in 30 males aged 8 to 26 with high-functioning autism and 30 males without autism.


The study is published in the Dec. 2 online edition of Autism Research.

Dr. Stewart Mostofsky, medical director at the Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism and Related Disorders, called the study "intriguing." However, it remains to be seen if the test is sensitive enough to distinguish between autism and other developmental conditions that impact the brain.

"This is a very preliminary step and one that will require larger samples of children and a broader range of children with autism and other development disorders, particularly other developmental language disorders," Mostofsky said.

This piece is a good example of cautious reporting. Compare and contrast with the hype in the UK Daily Mail:

MRI scan that can tell you within minutes if your child is autistic

A brain scan which diagnoses autism in children in just ten minutes has been developed by scientists.

It would enable the condition to be detected at a much earlier stage so youngsters could begin therapy and treatment before they started school.

The test, which is almost 95 per cent accurate, uses Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners to show how well the different parts of the brain communicating.