June 22, 2024

New Study Suggests Simple Learning Test May Identify Autism in Infants as Young as Six Months

A team of psychologists from the University of Milano-Bicocca and the Scientific Institute, IRCCS E. Medea, Child Psychopathology Unit, both in Italy, have potentially discovered a marker for autism that could diagnose the condition in infants as young as six months old.

The researchers, who published their findings in PLOS ONE, conducted tests on infants considered to be at risk of developing autism and compared their results with those of infants not at risk. They then monitored the infants for two years to determine if any of them developed the disorder.

Autism is a complex spectrum of social, mental, and emotional disorders, characterized by symptoms such as mutism, social difficulties, and extreme egocentrism. Previous research has shown that early Diagnosis of autism can lead to more effective interventions and improved outcomes as children grow older.

Diagnosing autism in children under the age of three is challenging due to normal developmental issues, as communication skills are necessary to answer questions. However, the researchers believe they may have found a way to diagnose the disorder in infants as young as six months using a statistical learning approach.

The team carried out a series of tests involving showing an infant a picture and observing their response to similar patterns in other pictures. This method, which utilizes statistical learning, is already used to diagnose older children with autism. By analyzing the infants’ responses, the researchers were able to identify potential markers for autism in the youngest age group.

This breakthrough could lead to earlier interventions and better support for families of children with autism, ultimately improving their quality of life. Further research is needed to validate these findings and refine the diagnostic tools.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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