Algorithm reads the baby’s brain and predicts autism
An international survey, found that with the help of a computer algorithm, autism can be predicted from the very first year of a child’s life before the first relevant behavioral symptoms occur. This opens the way for developing a pre-symptomatic diagnostic tool, which today does not exist.
In the new study, where the neuropsychologist Penelope Costopoulos of Canadian McGill University of Montreal, the University of North Carolina and the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, headed by the pediatrician and neuropsychologist Robert Schultz, used magnetic resonance imaging to study sleeping brain development in three groups of 148 children: infants at high risk of autism due to family history (eg older brother with autism) who later become diagnosed and these were the same disorder in infants with a family history of autism but had not been diagnosed with the same until the age of two years and in infants with no family history and no diagnosis of autism.
Scientists studied the brain at three intervals: at the age of six, 12 and 24 months. It was found that, compared to children without autism, autistic children experienced a faster development of the surface of the brain cortex between the ages of six and 12 months as well as a faster increase in brain volume between 12 and 24 months .
Then, with the help of a “deep learning” artificial intelligence computing system (“algorithm”), fed with all the comparative data from brain imaging, it was found that it is possible to accurately predict – with a precision of about 80% – which children developed autism later.
For “real progress in the early diagnosis of autism,” Sulch said. As he said, “we have the first solid evidence that before a child celebrates his first birthday, it is possible to predict whether he will be diagnosed with autism.”
Scientists, however, have pointed out that their algorithm, although promising, needs further improvement before being widely used for the early diagnosis of autism disorder.
Until today, at the earliest that autism could be diagnosed, it is from the age of about two years old, based on certain behaviors and communication difficulties, usually occurring at the age of two to four years. The siblings of children already diagnosed with autism are also more at risk than the general population.
Although there is no cure for this complex developmental disorder, early diagnosis and intervention can alleviate the symptoms and improve the social, emotional and cognitive skills of children with autism.
Previous studies have shown that people with autism often have a larger brain.