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Scientists Thrive in The Testing Potential Brain-Based System to Diagnose Autism

The functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the team was able to measure the response of autistic children to different environmental cues by imaging a specific part of the brain involved in assigning value to social interactions.

the study’s principal investigator stated, right now, a two- to four-hour session by a qualified clinician is required to diagnose autism, and ultimately it is a subjective assessment based on their experience,” stated, Kenneth Kishida, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental dysfunction disturbs conversation and interaction with other people.

In the study, the team led by Kishida and P. Learn Montague, Ph.D., of Virginia Tech, tested the responsiveness of the brain’s ventral medial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) to visual cues that represented highly-valued social interaction in kids diagnosed with ASD compared to typically developing (TD) children.

First, the research participants were scanned in an fMRI while viewing eight images of either people or objects, each one multiple time. Included in each set of pictures were two self-selected photos of a beloved person and object from each associate. The other six were standardized photographs of three objects faces and three faces, each representing pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant aspects from information widely used in psychological investigations.

After finishing the 12- to 15-minute MRI scan, the youngsters viewed the same set of images on a computer screen and ranked them in order from pleasant to unpleasant with a self-assessing sliding scale. Besides, pairs of images viewed and graded as to which one they preferred better.

According to the study, the average response of the vmPFC considerably decreased in the ASD group than in the TD group. Using pictures as a single stimulus to capture 30 seconds of fMRI data was sufficient to differentiate the ASD and TD groups, Kishida said.

Kishida’s crew plans to do follow-up studies to identify which additional areas of the brain are involved within the different sides of the disorder to help personalize treatments for patients.

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