The test, which uses MRI to measure deviations in brain circuitry, could someday replace the subjective test now used to identify those with the disorder. It could also lead to a better understanding of autism and to better management and treatments of affected individuals.
"This is not yet ready for prime time use in the clinic yet, but the findings are the most promising thus far," said lead author Nicholas Lange, ScD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Neurostatistics Laboratory at McLean. "Indeed, we have new ways to discover more about the biological basis of autism and how to improve the lives of individuals with the disorder," said senior author Janet Lainhart, MD, Principal Investigator of the research at the University of Utah.
The Harvard-McLean and University of Utah researchers used the test on two groups of subjects. One group consisted of individuals who had previously been diagnosed with high-functioning autism using the standard subjective scoring system. That system is based on assessing patients and questioning their parents about their functionality in a variety of areas including language, social functioning, and behavior. The second group studied was a control group consisting of normally developing individuals.
The subjects were put in an MRI scanner that was programmed to be sensitive to water diffusion along the axons of the brain to measure microscopic features of the brain's circuitry. The Lange-Lainhart test employs Diffusion Tensor Imaging.
"It provides pictures and measurements of the microscopic fiber structures of the brain that enable language, social and emotional functioning, which can reveal deviations that are not found in those without autism," Lange said.
By measuring six aspects of the brain's circuitry, the test was able to correctly distinguish those who had previously been diagnosed with autism with 94 percent accuracy.
A repeat study using two different sets of subjects showed the same high level of performance.
"The differences picked up on the study correlate with clinical symptoms that are part of the features of autism," Lainhart said. "There is less directional flow to and from brain regions where there should be more information exchange," said Lange.
The collaborative research group will further study and develop the test with more findings due out in a year or two. Future studies will look at patients with high-severity autism, younger children, and patients with brain disorders such as developmental language disorders, ADHD and OCD, who do not have autism.
If the test demonstrates further success, it could someday replace the current subjective system of diagnosing autism, which is not biologically based.
It could also someday lead to pinpointing how autism develops. "We can gain a better understanding of how this disorder arises and changes over the lifetime of an individual, and derive more effective treatments," said Lainhart.
Co-authors included: Molly DuBray, Alyson Froehlich, Brad Wright, P. Thomas Fletcher, all of the University of Utah, Erin Bigler of Brigham Young University, Nagesh Adluru, Alexander Alexander, and Jee Eun Lee of the University of Wisconsin, and Michael Froimowitz and Caitlin Ravichandran at Harvard and McLean.
University of Utah Health Sciences is internationally regarded for its research and clinical expertise in the health sciences. For more information, visit www.healthsciences.utah.edu.
McLean Hospital is the largest psychiatric clinical care, teaching and research facility of Harvard Medical School, an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital and a member of Partners HealthCare. For more information about McLean Hospital, visit www.mclean.harvard.edu.
Adriana Bobinchock | EurekAlert!
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy