July 26, 2017

Autism Severity Detected With Brain Activity Test

LOS ANGELES -- July 26, 2017 -- Children with autism have a tell-tale difference on brain tests compared with other children, according to a study published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Specifically, the researchers found that the lower a child’s peak alpha frequency, the lower their non-verbal IQ was.

The study is the first to highlight peak alpha frequency as a promising biomarker not only to differentiate children with autism from typically developing children, but also to detect the variability in cognitive function among children with autism.

Shafali Spurling Jeste, MD, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and the UCLA Center for Autism Research and Treatment, Los Angeles, California, and colleagues performed electroencephalogram (EEGs) on 97 children aged 2 to 11 years. Of the children, 59 had diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 38 did not.

The EEGs were taken while the children were awake and relaxed in dark, quiet rooms. Correlations among age, verbal IQ, non-verbal IQ and peak alpha frequency were then studied.

At a group level, peak alpha frequency was decreased in children with ASD compared with typically developing children. Moreover, within the ASD group, peak alpha frequency correlated strongly with non-verbal cognition.

The discovery that peak alpha frequency relates directly to non-verbal IQ in children with the disorder suggests a link between the brain’s functioning and the severity of the condition. Moreover, it means that researchers may be able to use the test as a biomarker in the future, to help study whether an autism treatment is effective in restoring peak alpha frequency to normal levels, for instance.

More work is needed to understand whether peak alpha frequency can be used to predict the development of autism spectrum disorder in young children before symptoms emerge.

Reference: doi: 10.1111/ejn.13645

SOURCE: University of California Los Angeles

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