EEG test to identify autism in children

The number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has recently increased to one in 100. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Medicine demonstrates that EEG can distinguish between children with autism and neurotypical controls. Autistic children showed a reduction in short range connectivity indicating poor function of local brain networks, especially in the left hemisphere regions responsible for language. However these children had increased connectivity between regions that were further apart indicating a compensatory mechanism.

Autism is characterized by impaired communication, including language and social skills, and often includes rigidity of interests, or repetitive, ritualistic behavior. While MRI studies have reported differing results, EEG measurements of have been more consistent.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School compared EEG measurements of almost 1000 children with and without . Data was collected using 24 electrodes on the scalps of awake and alert subjects and results adjusted for events known to confound EEG results such as blinking, head movement or drowsiness.

Dr Frank Duffy and Dr Heidelise Als who performed this research at the Boston Children's Hospital explained, "EEG coherence is used to assess functional connectivity within the brain. Across all the age groups we tested, a set of 40 coherence measurements reliably and consistently distinguished between children with ASD and their controls."

The EEG results showed widespread differences in brain connectivity. Specifically short distance coherence (between adjacent electrodes) was reduced in the children with ASD, especially in the left frontal regions associated with language. Conversely long distance coherence was increased, suggesting a compensatory mechanism.

In addition to behavioral assessments, the use of EEG-based testing may help reliably diagnose autism in children, and may assist early detection in infants, allowing for more effective therapies and coping strategies.

Related Stories

Brain scans detect autism's signature

Nov 15, 2010

An autism study by Yale School of Medicine researchers using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has identified a pattern of brain activity that may characterize the genetic vulnerability to developing autism spectrum ...

Using EEGs to diagnose autism spectrum disorders in infants

Feb 22, 2011

A computational physicist and a cognitive neuroscientist at Children's Hospital Boston have come up with the beginnings of a noninvasive test to evaluate an infant's autism risk. It combines the standard electroencephalogram ...

New research may lead to improved diagnosis of autism

May 31, 2011

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may provide an early and objective indicator of autism, according to researchers at Columbia University in New York City, who used the technique to document language impairment ...

Recommended for you

'Integrated Play Groups' help children with autism

Oct 27, 2014

It's an often-agonizing challenge facing any parent of a child with autism: How can I help my son or daughter socialize with his or her typically developing peers? The solution, SF State's Pamela Wolfberg found, may lie in ...

Autism after high school

Oct 27, 2014

Melanie Tyner-Wilson is facing one of her toughest battles yet. She wants nothing more than to help her son Jay Tyner-Wilson, who is a person with autism, land his first real job.

Association between air toxics and childhood autism

Oct 22, 2014

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) were more likely to have been exposed to higher levels of certain air toxics during their mothers' pregnancies and the first two years of life compared to children ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.