ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Washington University researchers have made progress in predicting autism in infants with a family history of the disorder.

This multi-center study used MRI scans to look at the brains of infants with older siblings who have autism spectrum disorder at six, twelve and twenty-four months. Among infants with a sibling who has autism, this new research indicates it could become possible to predict whether these young babies will go on to develop autism spectrum disorder by age 2. Washington University child psychiatrist Dr. Kelly Botteron says they used MRI brain scans without sedation while the infants were sleeping.

“It was basically eighty, eighty-five percent predictive of being able to basically make a diagnosis based on just their MRI scan changes from six to twelve to 24 months,” she says.

Botteron says they still need to duplicate these findings in a larger study. Earlier diagnosis, she says, could substantially improve long term outcomes, including better outcomes in adult life.

“There’s pretty good evidence that the earlier we can make a diagnosis and begin interventions, even things like speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, kinds of behavioral interventions that we can have a much better long term outcome.”

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