MRI brain scan developed that can detect autism in 10 minutes.

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.

It would cost as little as £100 per patient and researchers hope it will be available in hospitals within the next five years.

The scans would eventually replace the painstaking series of checks and tests currently carried out by GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose the condition.

Parents often have to wait several years to find out if their children involving countless trips to hospitals and long waiting lists to see specialists.

Around 1 in 100 children suffer from autism – which ranges in its severity – causing them to suffer learning, communication and behavioral problems.

Researchers at Harvard University have designed a test which uses an MRI scan to show how the different parts of the brain interact.

Autism sufferers have weaker connections between different parts of the brain, which is why they have problems communicating and learning.

The images produced by the scan are able to show up how well water molecules move along the ‘wiring’ which links different parts of the brain.

From these images, the scientists are able to measure the interaction within the areas of the brain, and therefore diagnose whether or not a child has autism

Researchers say that in a few years parents worried their toddler has behavioral problems could take them along to a hospital and find out within ten minutes whether they have autism.

One key advantage of the technique is that most hospitals already have the MRI scanners that enable them to carry out the test.

Researchers say they now need to check the technique is accurate by carrying out further experiments and checks,

But they estimate it would cost around £100 per patient – far cheaper than the £2,000 currently spent on a conventional diagnosis.

Early trials of the carried out on 60 people aged between seven and 26 found that the test was 94 per cent accurate.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the journal Autism Research, say they now need to carry out more tests on patients in wider age groups.

Professor Nicholas Lange, of Harvard Medical School said: ‘In the future parents could take children into hospital and they could have the scan.

‘It would take ten minutes after which measurements could be carried out to give a diagnosis of autism.

‘The disorder could be ruled in or ruled out.

‘The youngest patient we tested was seven years old but we are carrying out tests on three years old.

‘We need to carry out further tests over the next few years to check whether our results can be replicated in different laboratories and on wider groups of patients.

‘We hope that it will improve the lives of people with autism.’

Earlier this year British scientists developed a similar test for autism using an MRI scan to detect changes in different regions of the brain.

But this latest method is believed to be far more effective and advanced.

There is currently no medical treatment for autism.

However there are a range of behavioural therapies to improve learning and development skills which have been shown to be particularly affective, particularly if administered at a very early age.

Carol Povey, Director of The National Autistic Society’s Centre for Autism, said:
‘Research which gives an insight into the way people with autism process and understand the world around them, is extremely valuable.

‘Studies which improve our understanding, and the understanding of medical professionals, can therefore help ensure that people with autism get access to the appropriate advice and services that they need.

‘Eventually, the researchers also hope that brain scans might be a useful diagnostic tool.

‘While further testing is still required, any new tools which could help identify autism at an earlier stage, or more conclusively, have the potential to improve a person’s quality of life if the right support can be put in place as soon as possible.’

Via Daily Mail