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Study: EEGs May Revolutionize Autism Diagnosis

A new study out of Boston Children’s Hospital shows promising results that electroencephalograms (EEGs) may some day be used to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorders. The large case control study of over 1,300 children aged one through 18 showed extremely accurate results. Some scientists think EEGs may also be able to measure how well therapies are working.

The age subset that was primarily studied was children age 2 through 12. Researchers used EEGs to measure the electrical activity in the brains of 430 autistic children and 554 neurotypical (typically-developing) children between the ages of 2 and 12.

“Most of these patterns provide enough information to cleanly separate 2 to 12-year-old autistic children from neurotypical controls,” Dr. Frank Duffy, a study co-author and director of developmental neurophysiology at Boston Children’s Hospital, told ABC News.

The autistic children studied were considered “classically autistic,” a group that is often challenging to study because of language and communication issues, said Dr. Duffy.

Some neurologists are doubtful that EEGs can replace the (hours-long, expensive) evaluation in a clinical setting. Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a child neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital told ABC News the EEG “is more of a confirmatory tool.”

Dr. Wiznitzer  said EEGs may also have value to help determine whether an intervention is working, which could have far-reaching impact.

“I think the value is in the research and for monitoring how people are responding to treatments,” said Dr. Wiznitzer.

Wiznitzer cautioned that some of the connectivity patterns observed in the study could also be signs of other types of disorders. One of the patterns, for example, involved the left of side of the brain in an area where high-level language takes place, meaning those patterns could be seen in children with developmental language disorders.

Dr. Duffy plans to repeat the study in children with other types of autism to determine whether the same patterns exist.

(via ABC News)

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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