Autism breakthrough as researchers develop eye scan that will help speed up diagnosis of the condition in children
- Eye scan could detect autism in children as breakthrough made in technology
- A handheld scanner detects certain electrical signals pulsing in the retina
- About 180 people living with and without autism have been tested on device
- Dr Paul Constable said early scans would help children and empower families
A simple eye test developed by Australian researchers could completely revolutionise how autism is diagnosed in children.
Accurate diagnoses could be made with those as young as five years old following the breakthrough by a team of scientists at Melbourne’s Flinders University.
The new technique – which uses a handheld scanner to look for certain electrical signals in the retina – comes after more than a decade of research in the field.
‘The retina is an extension of the brain, connected by the optic nerve, so it was an ideal place to look,’ lead researcher Dr Paul Constable said.
A simple eye test developed by Australian researchers is set to completely revolutionise how autism is diagnosed in children (stock image)
‘We found a pattern of subtle electrical signals in the retina that are different in children on the autism spectrum, which relates to differences in their brain development.’
About 180 people living with and without autism, and aged between five and 21, were tested with the new technology.
Dr Constable said the aim of the research was to allow diagnosis to be made as early as possible, so parents can decide if they want to have more children.
‘The next stage is to look at young children, even infants, as the earlier we can get to intervention the better,’ he said.
The chance of having a second child with autism is much higher for parents who already have one who is on the spectrum, the researchers said.
That is, the child has a one if five chance of being born with autism with a diagnosis generally made when the child reaches the age of four.
The scan will allow parents to detect autism earlier in their firstborn child and give them an opportunity to decide whether or not they want more children.
‘Very early diagnosis means not only can children receive important interventions, but families are empowered to get the necessary supports in place, come to terms with the diagnosis, and make informed decisions,’ Dr Constable said.
The scan could also be used to detect attention deficit hyperactivity disorder later down the track.
Accurate diagnoses could be made with those as young as five-years-old following the breakthrough by a team of scientists at Melbourne’s Flinders University (stock image)