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Medicine Science

Autism Diagnosed With a Fifteen Minute Brain Scan 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the 15-minutes-definitely-15-minutes dept.
kkleiner writes "A new technique developed at King's College London uses a fifteen minute MRI scan to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The scan is used to analyze the structure of grey matter in the brain, and tests have shown that it can identify individuals already diagnosed with autism with 90% accuracy. The research could change the way that autism is diagnosed – including screening children for the disorder at a young age."
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Autism Diagnosed With a Fifteen Minute Brain Scan

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  • Or.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:12AM (#33298632)

    Counting the number of first posts you get on slashdot

    • Re:Or.. (Score:4, Funny)

      by w0mprat (1317953) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:40AM (#33299014)
      Damn, missed first post. I was too busy counting the words in the summary.
      • With our without counting "kkleiner writes"?

        • by idontgno (624372)

          There are 440 characters in the text of the summary plus the introduction you speak of. Disregarding ends-of-lines or the actual URL embedded in the text.

          Definitely.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)
      Like ADHD, "Autism" is *HIGHLY* over diagnosed, it's very much big money these days, both for pill companies as well as "therapists". NOTE: I didn't say these "conditions" where fake, I said over diagnosed for the purpose of money.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Niedi (1335165)
        If I got this right during skimming through the article, the test will produce roughly 20% false positives.
        So let's just hope it will not be used for mass screening...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by delinear (991444)
          Or that, like all good screening tools, it's used as an aid to proper diagnosis rather than the final arbiter of such. There's nothing wrong with mass screening per se so long as you don't rely on it to make the final decision. On the other hand, I wonder what percentage of those false positives are, as GP pointed out, potentially patients who were misdiagnosed in the first instance.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fractoid (1076465)
          It's even worse than that. It's not 20% false positives - it's 19 out of 20 positives are false. FTFA:

          If we’re asking, “If I have autism, will the brain scan find it?,” the answer is an encouraging 90% “yes.” But if we change the question to “If the scan says I have autism, do I have the ASD?,” that number plummets to something like 5%.

          In other words, this method is roughly as accurate as:

          bool hasAutism(void *data) {
          return (rand() % 20) == 3;
          }

          • Base rate fallacy (Score:5, Informative)

            by martyros (588782) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @09:31AM (#33301464)

            Not really -- the problem is with the base rate fallacy [wikipedia.org]. Suppose that there's a test that will tell you whether or not you have a disease with 99% accuracy: if you have it, you're 99% likely to test positive; if you don't have it, you're 99% likely to test negative.

            Now, you get a test and it's positive. What's your probability of having the disease?

            The answer is, "There's not enough information to answer the question." The missing piece of information is the "base rate".

            Suppose that 50% of the people have the disease. Then in testing 1 million people, 500K will have the disease, of which 495K will come back positive (true positive), and 5K the test will come back negative (false negatives). 500K will not have the disease, of which 495k will come back negative (true negative), and 5k will come back positive (false positive). If the test came back positive, you're either a true positive or a false positive. Since there are 500K positives, and 495K of those are true positives, your chances of having the disease are 99%.

            Suppose instead that 1% of people have the disease. Then in testing 1 million people, 990K will not have the disease, and 10K will have it. Of the 990K, 980K will come back negative (true negative) and 10K will come back positive (false positive). Of the 10K, 9900 will come back positive (true positive), and 100 will come back negative (false negative). There are 19,900 who tested positive, of which only 9900 (less than half) actually have the disease. So if you tested positive, your chances are about 50%.

            So even if the test itself is very accurate (and I think 99% is pretty accurate), if the base rate is low enough (and in autism I believe it's still less than 1%), a positive reading may not be conclusive. You'd have to correlate it with other symptoms to make sure.

            • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

              by jackchance (947926)

              mod parent up.

            • by zolltron (863074)

              The previous discussion is why the base rate fallacy is so dangerous. According to wikipedia, the base rate for autism is 6 / 1,000. That means a random child has a 0.6% chance of having autism. A test that raises that to 5% is a huge improvement (almost an order of magnitude).

  • Say you scan 50,000 a year, you'll get 5000 false positives. That means each year you'll have 5000 children who'll have to go through humiliating therapy and have their education severely hampered for no good reason! Of those 50,000, you'd expect only 500 to actually have autism.

    Even if you used this as a basis for further testing, You're still putting 10 families through the stress of comprehensive testing for autism for no reason for every 1 family whose child actually has the condition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by abigsmurf (919188)
      aaaaand it says that in the article.

      Bleh, I'm not used to actual good reporting on "a new totally amazing test!!!" stories in the media.
    • by Ihlosi (895663) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:37AM (#33298754)
      You're still putting 10 families through the stress of comprehensive testing for autism for no reason for every 1 family whose child actually has the condition.

      MRIs are expensive, and autism-like behavior is obvious enough that you can narrow down the group of people you're going to test significiantly before you start testing. Also, for families with one or more kids with behavioral disorders, a 15-minute test usually doesn't qualify as "stress", at least not compared to all the other crap they have to go through.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Thanshin (1188877)

        I wonder how many false positives you can give to a family before they stop believing in modern medicine.

        "Your kid is autistic!
        No, wait, he wasn't. But he's got ADHD! Nope. A tumor! Nope, that's not it.

        *five hours later*

        The pox! Nope. ... Plutonium poisoning! Yeee... Nope. ...

        Does your kid have any south asian prostitute friend?"

        • by aastanna (689180) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @07:18AM (#33299826)
          Sounds like every episode of House.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The problem is that medicine is nowhere near as exact a science as the common man seems to think. Feeling ill? What symptoms do you have - temperature, cough, aversion to bright light? Congratulations, you have probably one of a thousand different conditions. The next step is narrowing those conditions down, and a lot of the time this does come down to simple statistics, it's more likely you have a common cold than a rare Amazonian flesh eating virus. That, plus the fact that we live in a society where nobo
      • by dryeo (100693)

        When my son got a MRI as part of being diagnosed as autistic, it was not a simple 15 minute test.
        They had to put him under before testing (they have to lay still for 15 minutes) which is somewhat stressful and he had to observed for a couple of hours after the test before we could take him home.

    • Much higher (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mirey (1324435) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:38AM (#33298762)
      its actually much higher than that. What you're quoting is that 1 in 10 people with autism and given a false negative. Its actually much worse. Out of 10,000 children, 1980 would be found positive, out of which only 90 would have the disease. So only about 5% of people who tested postive would actually be autistic. It says this in TFA.
      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        I was doing it on the basis of 1 in 100 people in the general population having autism. Seems it's closer to 1 in 170-200 (which are likely the figures they use)
      • A lot depends on how you define "the condition." There's a (fairly large) population of people with brains structurally similar to the autistic population who are not diagnosed autistic because they can function without problems in society at large.

        It doesn't mean that their brains are structurally the same as society at large.
      • by BobMcD (601576)

        its actually much higher than that. What you're quoting is that 1 in 10 people with autism and given a false negative.

        Its actually much worse. Out of 10,000 children, 1980 would be found positive, out of which only 90 would have the disease.

        So only about 5% of people who tested postive would actually be autistic.

        It says this in TFA.

        What, though, if the bolded assumption above is false? We're simply making an assumption here, aren't we? I mean, there's not any non-behavioral criteria being used to specifically state that the 'disease' isn't present, right?

        What if, somehow, those 1900 or so other people do have the 'disease', but they are somehow coping with it as to not have any discernible symptoms? Take as an example the number of people with Type II diabetes who are unaware of it. It isn't as if the blood sugar counts are someho

      • Out of 10,000 children, 1980 would be found positive, out of which only 90 would have the disease.

        Actually, about 60 (0.6%) will have ASD according to Wikipedia. Also, you'll be reasonably sure that, say, 9600 of the 10000 don't exhibit behaviour consistent with ASD at all (number from thin air). Checking all 10000 doesn't make sense, most will have a perfectly normal development from early age.

        On the other hand, if they really have found a reliable biological marker (no false negatives) which indicates ASD, you could test those 400 you suspect have some difficulties which might indicate ASD. Fringe cas

    • by txoof (553270) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:56AM (#33298830) Homepage

      As you said, this will just be used for further testing. Treatment for autism is very similar for other behavioral abnormalities, so not much will change for the families. If a child has already been singled out for further testing by their teachers/counselors/doctors/family, this will just be another in a set of tests to help further treatment. A child with EBD or Autism receives much of the same interventions at school and home. The interventions are extremely specific to each child; knowing that this child may be autistic gives parents, teachers and doctors a more focused approach to treatment. It directs which bag-of-tricks to start working from. Fortunately, if the child is not actually autistic, but has say Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD), many of the same interventions such as remedial communication skills and socialization skills can be used.

      It's not like this test puts a kid into a box with only one possible medication or treatment is offered. Each child's treatment is developed with the parents, teachers and other professionals. Some kids need headphones to walk though the cafeteria, some kids need a special squeeze ball, some kids need slow subtle introductions to complex social situations with highly scripted encounters to help them understand what is going on. This is true for the whole spectrum of EBD/autism disorders. Being able to scan a kid that might be autistic just gives everyone a much better starting place. They have a greater chance of successful treatment if they know which bag to start with rather than just grasping at straws.

    • Real Humiliation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @06:31AM (#33299516)

      Therapy's not humiliating. Hell, OT's kinda fun.

      Real humiliation is when you're growing up and all the interactions with your peers blow up in your face due to your mind-blindless and inability to read body language or understand personal space, and your classmates ostracize you because they think you're weird, and you don't know what's going wrong. And since there's nothing you know of (because your'e undiagnosed) that differentiates you from your peers or explains why this is happening, you conclude you're getting ostracized because you're some doofy, idiotic, bad person. That, my friend, is real humiliation.

      • Or alternatively, skipping that part by spending your entire childhood relating to your classmates as subhuman cretins because, to you, they're behaving completely irrationally - and since you are much, much smarter than most of them (and since you have lots of free time for personal study, much more educated), they believe you. And all the adults tell you that the reason you can't relate to them is because they're too stupid for you, and that you are just that much more mature than them. If you're differen
      • by infinite9 (319274)

        You know, if you'd just apply yourself and try harder, you'd be more successful. ;-)

      • Re:Real Humiliation (Score:4, Informative)

        by MarkRose (820682) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @12:27PM (#33303968) Homepage

        I went through exactly that. Being as smart as I am, people just figured that I shouldn't have problems. But when reading body language and figuring out social boundaries is a strenuous mental exercise, and doesn't come naturally or work subconsciously as it does with most people, it's exhausting, and very frustrating when you keep screwing up, unable to figure out all the rules. The humiliation never completely goes away, but you get used to it after a while.

        I'm 28, and I just figured out I have Asperger's Syndrome about a month ago. Not knowing until now has caused me a huge amount of grief. If I had known in kindergarten, it would have helped. Even then, I wasn't relating to the other kids -- and I never knew why I couldn't make friends. It wasn't a lack of trying.

        "Well functioning" individuals with autism spectrum disorders can get better. After a while, we build up the "rules" for social interaction. The mental effort never goes away, but like learning to play chess, the basics do come more naturally after a while. It'll never be like riding a bike. To this day, I have trouble continuing a casual conversation. I'll never really connect with anyone that isn't a nerd. I'm okay with that.

        In a sense, we are actors, life is a stage, and we do all our own stunts. The biggest problem well functioning individuals on the autistic spectrum face is coming across too normal, so that people attributed our odd behaviours as intentional and not to an innocent lack of understanding. We can learn, but because we usually highly intelligent, it's not obvious we need guidance or help.

        Discovering that I am on the spectrum has brought a lot more of the humility I had already begun to learn in an effort to relate to people. My high intelligence made me arrogant as a kid. I used to look down on people if they weren't as smart as I am. It took me a while to recognize they had talents in areas I didn't. Now I know why my abilities are so different than those of a normal person.

        I am blogging about being an aspie [aspieaspects.com], too. I'll probably repost this there later.

  • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:39AM (#33298770)
    They're trumpeting this 90% statistic, but what about the false positive rate? Contrary to standard /. procedure (I know, I know, I'm sorry), I decided to read TFA for an answer, and this is what I found out.

    Let’s think of 10,000 children. Of these 100 (1%) will have autism, 90 of these 100 would have a positive test, 10 are missed as they have a negative test: there’s the 90% reported accuracy by the media.

    But what about the 9,900 who don’t have the disease? 7,920 of these will test negative (the specificity in the Ecker paper is 80%). But, the real worry though, is the numbers without the disease who test positive. This will be substantial: 1,980 of the 9,900 without the disease. This is what happens at very low prevalences, the numbers falsely misdiagnosed rockets. Alarmingly, of the 2,070 with a positive test, only 90 will have the disease, which is roughly 4.5%.

    So it only has a 4.5% true positive rate. Great.

    • by Bazman (4849) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:01AM (#33298854) Journal

      Yep, but that might make it a useful *screening* tool rather than a *testing* tool. You'd then go do proper (ie more specific) tests.

      I can get a 99% correct diagnosis rate on autism just by going "not autistic" every time.

      I've read the original paper, and its based on a sample of 20 normal and 20 autistic people, I might have another read to see if they've done multiple tests and only picked the significant one. Search for the poster about fMRI responses in a dead salmon for more info...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, the fact that the false negative rate of 10% is worse than it's false positive rate of 5% doesn't really impress. Also MRI is not cheap. Screening tests that are actually useful are cheap and have very low false negative rates. This has neither.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by geekoid (135745)

        The pojnt of the test was to see if it was even possible to detect someone with autism. That's all.

        Apparently it is. More refinement needed.

        If peoplem started using it right now as an actual yes/no test then everyones complaints would be justified.

    • The article doesn't show the false positive rate on people that have been diagnosed NOT to suffer from autism...

      I hope it doesn't say 90% of them are autism sufferers...

    • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:21AM (#33298926)

      So it only has a 4.5% true positive rate. Great

      Indeed, it's significantly worse than my (99% true rate) autism diagnosing rock that evaporates if an autistic child holds it.

      And my rock takes much less than 15 minutes.

    • Which is probably why you use such a test as secondary diagnostic or even only as confirmation test. You don't run such test on the population of children, you only run it on children which are already suspected to have autism. In other word, this is not a scanning test.
    • with your lack of comprehension.

      Lets make it simple for you:
      Test is devised to find out if MRI can detect autism.
      It can detect people with autism with a 90% rate.*
      Refinement is needed.

      Your complaint is like going to 1912 and telling Goddard since his first rocket liquid fueled rocket won't go to the moon, his research is useless.

      It's a good discovery that has promise.

      *this does NOT mean 9 out of 10. IT means that the closer you get to edge cases the more likely it will fail.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Yeah, but think about how much money our psychologists and Pfizer will make off all those false positives! All those falsely-diagnosed ADHD kids [slashdot.org] can't last forever, you know. Eventually we'll need new boogeymen to provide excuses to drug our kids into not bugging us with their noisy shit.
    • What I'm reading there is that, in addition to skin color, we are sub-speciated by brain structure, and 4.5% of the "structurally different" population is having such severe challenges integrating into society that they're getting labels, therapies, etc.

      People are (sometimes) upset about the fact that a disproportionate number of blacks end up in prison - but I don't think the number is anywhere near 4.5%.
  • by Manip (656104) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @03:42AM (#33298784)
    With Autism being so prevalent in humans you do have to wonder if it is really a disease or mistake, or perhaps either a previous evolutionary step or our next evolutionary step. While people who suffer at the extreme ends of the autistic spectrum would have difficulty maintaining a society, some of the more moderate autistic individuals are leaders in engineering, technology, and science. I do worry that when you diagnose someone with autism there is this natural "I'm broken" feeling along with it, and everyone treats you like you're disabled and thus useless. So I cannot say if being able to identify autism more often is a good or bad thing.

    It is interesting, but unsurprising, that they found that ADHD and autism had no link thus far. Based on the symptoms I expect we'll find that if ADHD exists at all that it will be localised around control, while autism is localised around right/left brain communication.
    • by rve (4436) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @04:11AM (#33298886)

      While people who suffer at the extreme ends of the autistic spectrum would have difficulty maintaining a society, some of the more moderate autistic individuals are leaders in engineering, technology, and science.

      You could say the same about cancer. Some leaders in engineering, technology, and science have cancer. That doesn't mean cancer may not really be a disease or that a neoplasm may simply be the next step in our evolution.

      It has become fashionable among nerds to identify with Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Rainman to the point anyone who is even remotely socially awkward or left brain oriented to be called autistic, followed by the implication that autism fills an important role in society. The reality is somewhat different. With a few famous exceptions, patients tend to have trouble taking care of themselves - many are profoundly disabled - while actual leaders in engineering, technology, and science tend to have normal mental health. (though many of them may be assholes, but that's another story)

      • by guruevi (827432)

        You develop cancer whether or not you're a highly intelligent creature. Even dogs and cats develop cancer. There is no correlation between higher IQ and cancer (if anything it would be inversely related since lower IQ could mean you're more prone to do the low-paid, dangerous jobs around known carcinogens)

        Autism Spectrum Disorders are a range of disorders (not diseases) that you're born with, not something you develop (at least that's the current consensus). ASD-affected people however are either very high

      • by netsavior (627338)

        It has become fashionable among nerds to identify with Dustin Hoffman's portrayal of Rainman to the point anyone who is even remotely socially awkward or left brain oriented to be called autistic, followed by the implication that autism fills an important role in society. The reality is somewhat different. With a few famous exceptions, patients tend to have trouble taking care of themselves - many are profoundly disabled - while actual leaders in engineering, technology, and science tend to have normal mental health. (though many of them may be assholes, but that's another story)

        Do you know anyone who is autistic? I think not. You are counteracting the bullshit of Rainman Autism with the bullshit of Gilbert Grape Autism. The truth is that like all people, most Autistics are somewhere in the middle. I am very involved in Adult Autistic skills classes (where we teach life skills and coping strategies), and my child is Autistic, most of his friends are Autistic (shocking I know, how can he have friends if he is a mouth foaming invalid).

        I know it can be frustrating to people who

        • by geekoid (135745)

          I know many people all over the autism spectrum.

          The posters point is correct. That it's become fashionable within certain geek cultures to claim to have Asperger's syndrome.

          The last paragraph you right was completely irrelevant to the post. IN fact, is reeks of a standard reply always written even if it shows a complete lack of comprehension regarding the point to are adressing.

          It's in interesting that you seem to write negatively of your 80's treatment, yet they seems to have worked.

          I am old school enough

      • Boskop Man [wikipedia.org] didn't do so well in the long run - autism seems to be a milder version, but considering the common threads about dating on /., I wonder whether autistics will be able to reproduce copiously enough to compete in the gene pool.
    • by Halo1 (136547)

      With Autism being so prevalent in humans

      Autism is not prevalent at all. The fairly recently introduced class of "autism spectrum disorders" however are, but that's because it's generally a weasel term for "we don't know what the problem is and in fact there may not even be any problem, but let's put a stamp on it anyway" (I'm not a psychiatrist, but my father is and I talked about it with him). My *personal* opinion is that many people who are somehow not very socially minded or otherwise feel like an outl

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by blahplusplus (757119)

        ""we don't know what the problem is and in fact there may not even be any problem, but let's put a stamp on it anyway" (I'm not a psychiatrist, but my father is and I talked about it with him)"

        Yeah right, like this qualifies you for saying anything about it. Real severe autism certainly does exist and that there is quite strong evidence that their is in fact a spectrum. See temple grandin:

        Now just watching her now she seems "more normal" but you can tell their is something off about her right away and if

        • by Halo1 (136547)

          ""we don't know what the problem is and in fact there may not even be any problem, but let's put a stamp on it anyway" (I'm not a psychiatrist, but my father is and I talked about it with him)"

          Yeah right, like this qualifies you for saying anything about it.

          The above is basically what he told me.

          Real severe autism certainly does exist

          Of course it does, I never denied that.

          Like many things autistic spectrum disorders are over-diagnosed

          And that was basically my (father's) point (although he believes it very much over-diagnosed).

          Like many things autistic spectrum disorders are over-diagnosed but why why people are diagnosed on the autistic spectrum is in the first place is to get help.

          The point is that the fact that someone could use help does not necessarily mean that they suffer from a psychiatric disorder (although maybe for some people it's required to get over the mental barrier to seek help). But just like not diagnosing a problem is bad, starting to diagnose every deviation from whatever is perceived as "the nor

          • "The point is that the fact that someone could use help does not necessarily mean that they suffer from a psychiatric disorder"

            Yes but disorders are defined in terms of functioning within a society, i.e. without help many people would likely off themselves or possibly in worst circumstances turn to crime, etc.

            There may be "nothing" apparently wrong with them but obviously their developmental history took a wrong turn somewhere. You have to understand that people end up in psych system because collectively

            • by Halo1 (136547)

              You have to understand that people end up in psych system because collectively we are in denial and don't give much of a fuck about the fate of one another

              I'm sure that holds for a number of people (there are also people whose relatives/friends did try to take care of them and simply were not able to handle it). However, I think that defining psychiatric disorders with the purpose of getting socially vulnerable people in the psychiatric system is a very bad approach (now /there's/ a practice that may easily induce people to consider psychiatry to be nonsense).

              I'm not saying that such people should not get help, but psychiatry simply does not seem to be the ri

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by abigsmurf (919188)
      I personally believe that these savants are little more than statistics in action. For every autistic person who can do incredibly complex maths with ease, I'd be willing to bet there are hundreds in academia or research with similar levels of ability. If 1 in 500 regular people are mathematical whizzes, then 1 in 500 people (whose version of autism doesn't affect their thinking in that way) should also be whizzes.

      Other times, it's a case of mental disabilities forcing people into certain career paths.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Securityemo (1407943)
        There's another component when it comes to that - the fact that, to such a kid, ordinary team sports may be completely undoable. I excelled at and won contests in long-distance skiing and archery as a child/teen, but since I couldn't intuitively act in concert with the others when playing soccer, say, I just made a mess off it. Not that people really disliked me or laughet at me for this, it just didn't work. This is argumenting from a personal anecdote, I know, just throwing it in there.
    • by w0mprat (1317953)
      Autism in a mild form may been an evolutionary advantage, which is why it's seems to have a genetic component. It's when this mechanism it goes too far these individuals then are disadvantaged in society.

      We've probably had people who register in the Autism spectrum with obsessive interests going way back into prehistory.

      Certainly if ASDs are largely genetic, there would have been early humans eidetic memory, and other unusual mental abilities. They could have been encyclopedias of knowledge about what
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Securityemo (1407943)
      I am a "diagnosed" asperger sufferer; as in, every psychologist I've ever met have basically said 'you have asperger' upon taking to me for a few hours, except for the one that suspected schizophrenia. Cue me trying to convince them to focus om my ADD instead of something that can't be treated. I am functional socially, more or less, if I want, but deliberately play up my geek/nerd image in order to have enough leeway to charade myself through life. It helps that I'm good-looking, I think. Here's how I see
      • by reiisi (1211052)

        Well, from all that you've said to this point, what you describe is not all that unusual in most people.

        There is a matter of degree, of course, which you have implied is above what you perceive as normal.

        The longer I live, the more normal I discover myself to be. YMMV, of course.

        Not to imply that it was all in my head or that it is all in your head. I have an approach (set of approaches) to many problems that is different from most people's approaches. If I try to work around that, I usually spend way too m

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      With Autism being so prevalent in humans you do have to wonder if it is really a disease or mistake, or perhaps either a previous evolutionary step or our next evolutionary step.

      This isn't Marvel comics. Evolution doesn't work that way.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It's not the prevalent. It's in the media a lot, and the edges have widen. That's not the same thi8ng.

      More people break their arm, that doesn't mean it's the next step in evolution.

      ADHD does, in fact, exist unfortunately ADHD, and any other diseases, get jump on buy people pushing an ideological position and that confuses people and makes it hard for them to understand what the actual science is.

      Also idiots see a child behaving differently so they think it must be the parents fault. sometimes it is, but no

    • by SETIGuy (33768) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @11:38AM (#33303242) Homepage

      With Autism being so prevalent in humans you do have to wonder if it is really a disease or mistake, or perhaps either a previous evolutionary step or our next evolutionary step.

      This point gets raised on Slashdot quite often, and it represents in incredible misunderstanding of evolution. Evolution doesn't have steps and doesn't progress in an easily identifiable direction. Genetic features aren't mistakes. They just are. And they are either beneficial in some way or they are not. If there are specific genes responsible for autism and they always cause autism, they would need to spread to a very large fraction of the population to be indicative of evolutionary change. They would also need to be beneficial to reproductive success.

      Now it's possible that some of the genes that cause autism are beneficial, but that having too many of them causes autism. It would be difficult to go from that state to an entirely autistic species. I don't see highly autistic individuals finding autistic mates and having large families. Even if they did, the children might not be autistic. We don't understand the genetic and environmental combinations required yet.

      If you've had any contact with highly autistic people, you'll know that an autistic species wouldn't survive for long. Fully autistic people (not the ones on slashdot who claim to be autistic but are just lacking in social skills) do not have the skill set to survive alone. Or to recognize that another individual might need help. Or to recognize that another individual has thoughts, emotions, or a different point of view. The savant skills that some autistic people have are rare. Autistic people who can't count past 10 outnumber the "living calculators" by factors of a thousand.

      Of couse, Autism isn't "good" or "bad." It just is. But it is hard on families. If a way is ever found to prevent it, I think most people would be happy about it.

  • woo! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maudface (1313935)
    I can only see this as a good thing, I'm on a compsci course and as you'd expect it seems like a good third of the people there claim to have aspergers, most of those seem fairly typical and reasonably socially functional. I'd be *highly* interested to see what this test reveals about them. This isn't to say I don't believe in the condition, I know plenty who have it and exhibit obvious major behavioural patterns and have actual issues with such things, I for one just suspect it's *way* over diagnosed, hel
    • Asperger is a spectrum disorder, and at the mild end it can alternately be seen as a "neurological-difference-induced personality." This doesn't mean that such high-functioning people doesn't benefit from having self-insight, which is what it's all about - realizing that you function different on the inside. Imagine you are married, but your wife complains about you being cold, distant, self-centered, and staring at her like a dead cod instead of comforting her/resolving arguments? You may be perfectly with
    • by geekoid (135745)

      ", I certainly don't buy it"

      Why not?

      And this test was just to see if it was at all possible to detect Autism. Not that it detects Autism in an unknown uncontrolled environment.

      Hopefully someday it will not only get good enough to do that, but also tell you where on the spectrum the patient is.

  • It'd be nice if someone out there would focus on prognosis and treatment of ASD.
    Usually ASD is already "almost" easy to diagnose by other means. While treatment is not at all.
  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday August 19, 2010 @05:23AM (#33299204)

    The research could change the way that autism is diagnosed - including screening children for the disorder at a young age.

          The thing about primary screening tests is that they have to give false positives, due to high sensitivity and lower specificity. It's ok if the test tells you you have HIV when actually you don't. It's NOT ok if it doesn't tell you you have it when you do. The other thing about primary screening tests is that they have to be cheap. This test is far from cheap and in fact consumes limited resources. In some countries there are waiting lists for MRIs.

          Perhaps this test could be used as a secondary screen, if specificity can be proven to be high enough, to screen those doubtful or borderline cases so that they can be correctly diagnosed.

    • by russotto (537200)

      This test is far from cheap and in fact consumes limited resources. In some countries there are waiting lists for MRIs.

      Resources that could become abundant at the snap of a health bureaucrat's fingers (keeping in mind it takes about 5-10 years and 16 forms to get a health bureaucrat to snap his fingers). Wouldn't help with the expense, though.

  • Let me first say that this is great news - if it turns out to be true however following the addage of most published research is false [plosmedicine.org]. It's worth keeping in mind that this has 20 controls, 20 ASD and 19 ADHD - according to the article they could distinguish the ASD diagnoses from the controls and the ADHD but considering that according to the DSM IV autism can have close to 100 unique presentations. I wonder how much this actually demonstrates.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      It demonstrates that it's possible.
      Refinement is needed to see if it can be useful.

      Most publish research is false because a lot of it is just like this: initial tests.

      As you know, but other readers may not, the facts that most published results turn out to be false is a good thing.

  • "A new technique developed at King’s College London" ...is not a new technique at all. It is an application of an old, in fact the oldest, analysis technique for structural brain MR imaging....

    "uses a fifteen minute MRI scan"... a very common, standard MR brain scan, followed by many hours of counting the voxels (volumetric pixels) in the area of interest. Followed by many more hours of the same, to estimate the reliability using inter-rater testing, necessary due to variations in size, shape, density

  • ...movement.

    If this test does mature into a (much) more reliable diagnostic tool, and can be made accurate enough to be useful, early diagnosis will significantly increase the number of children diagnosed with autism.

    I'm sure the anti-vaccine, anti-science contingent will completely misunderstand the issue and blame the increase in autism diagnoses on the H1N1 vaccine, or whatever tomorrow's boogeyman is.

  • Doesn't something like 90% of the population fall somewhere on the autistic spectrum as it is? ;o

  • suribe (Score:3, Informative)

    by suribe (908964) on Thursday August 19, 2010 @09:38AM (#33301584) Homepage
    read "Why autism can't be diagnosed with brain scans" at http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/blog/2010/aug/12/autism-brain-scan-statistics [guardian.co.uk]
  • I'll be genuinely impressed - and eager to put myself under the magnet - if it can reliably distinguish between autism spectrum disorders and highly sensitive people (http://www.hsperson.com/pages/2Aug09.htm).

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