Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill may have discovered a way to predict autism in infants before symptoms begin.
The early predictor was found by Mark Shen, a Post-doctoral scholar, and his team of researchers, as published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
According to WRAL, the Kollins family gave researchers the green light of having their two kids participate in the UNC study; 4-year-old son Grayson and 10-month-old daughter Evelyn.
Young children were important for the study to detect early autism. That age group has the highest risk of developing autism, researchers stated.
In the case of Grayson, he was diagnosed at age 2 and six months and showed definite signs of autism.
MRI scans taken of infants at six months, one year and two years of age show changes in brain activity which indicate if they’re at low or high risk of developing autism, as Shen suggested.
The primary changes in the brain, in which researchers found in an infant that was six months old, was the excessive amount of cerebral spinal fluid. Researchers called this a very important brain abnormality.
Cerebral spinal fluid is associated with brain development and can hold the clue to predicting autism before symptoms begin in infants.
Cerebral spinal fluid is usually drained out and replaced at least four times each day.
“And the reason why that’s important is it’s constantly filtering out these inflammatory proteins,” Shen stated.
Researchers noted that up to 70 percent of infants who showed signs of increased cerebral spinal fluid would later be diagnosed with autism.
The new findings shed a light on a disorder impacting millions of people, and researchers are trying to understand autism before it develops.
“It means that we might get ahead of the actual occurrence of autism before the symptoms appear, before the brain changes appear, at a time when the brain is most malleable,” researchers concluded.