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Medicine Science Technology

Autism Starts Months Before Symptoms Appear, Study Shows (scientificamerican.com) 119

A new study published this week in the journal Nature suggests there is evidence of autism in the brain well before symptoms start to appear. Typically, the earliest that children are diagnosed with the disorder is at the age of two, although often times it is even later. Scientists may now be able to detect the disorder well before a child's first birthday via a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. Scientific American reports: Researchers conducted MRI scans on 150 children three times: at six months old, one year and two years. Just over 100 of the children were at high risk because they had an older sibling diagnosed with autism. The faster growth rate of the surface areas of their brains correctly predicted eight times out of 10 which of the high-risk children would go on to be diagnosed with the condition. Enlargement of the brain seemed to correlate with the arrival of symptoms, says Heather Hazlett, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina's Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities (CIDD), and the paper's lead author. Still, with only 100 at-risk children, the study is too small to be considered definitive -- nor should doctors rush to use MRIs to diagnose autism, Hazlett says. But if the study results are confirmed in future research, it could offer a new option for screening high-risk children before their symptoms become obvious -- and possibly at a time when treatment will be most effective.
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Autism Starts Months Before Symptoms Appear, Study Shows

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  • Can't Be True! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @08:48PM (#53877241)
    Because that might mean that autism is already setting in before certain Eeeeeevil vaccines have been given.

    Of course those government vaccines may have secret alien time travel substances which go back to start the autism before they are administered. That seems most likely.
    • It means that the vaccines are so bad that they are violating basic physics. Apparently vaccines can cause harm before they are even injected. Someone should talk to the physicists and let them know that the MMR vaccine contains tachyons.
    • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @09:20PM (#53877411)

      vaccines may ... go back to start the autism before they are administered.

      Physicists have actually demonstrated this sort of thing is possible, using quantum entanglement [google.com.au] contrary to common sense.

      You can actually have the past depend on the present, but the catch is that it cannot be used to transmit information back in time. Causality is not violated so long as the effects are not observed until after the cause.

      This is important: the very act of detecting autism with the MRI will break the quantum entanglement and stop the vaccine from causing autism.
      This may be a cure!

      (I hope there are still enough nerds on slashdot to appreciate this potential breakthrough.)

      • The arrow of time is an illusion and if you make a video of atomic level events and play it forwards and then play it backwards, no one can tell you which is which.
        • But at a higher level it's easy to see which direction time is moving. Why is that?
          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            The best explanation we have is that the observer makes this happen. Hence without observer, both possible directions for time are valid. It is unclear how sophisticated the observer has to be, but a machine will not do.

            • heh.........so if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it still make a sound? Or does it 'fall' up?
            • It is unclear how sophisticated the observer has to be, but a machine will not do.

              In physics, an "observer" is just something that causes waveform collapse.
              Anything that absorbs energy at the given wavelength will do.
              It could be a person, a machine or a lump of coal.

              God, gweihir, you and your fantasy science.

          • I'd imagine the most likely explanation to be that the statistical probability of event x happening in the future given that y has happened in the past is not the same as the probability of y happening in the future given that x happened in the past; but at very small scales, the difference is too small to see at any small time delta.

            If so, try speeding up the video or yes, look at a higher level.
          • Primarily due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Events which increase entropy are vastly more likely than those that decrease entropy. So the Universe tends towards higher entropy. When the Universe reaches maximum entropy, i.e. heat death, no more change can occur, and time stops.

            The best analogy I've heard (stolen from a documentary I don't remember the name of), is to think of a sand castle. In a sand castle, the grains of sand are highly ordered into a very specific shape and structure. We can consid

        • by quenda ( 644621 )

          The arrow of time is an illusion

          All our perceptions are simplifications - e.g. solid matter. An "illusion" is more like the opposite: seeing complexity when reality is simpler.

          make a video of atomic level events and play it forwards and then play it backwards, no one can tell you which is which.

          Doesn't entropy still apply at the atomic level. e.g. particle decay?
          Sure the maths (classical mechanics or wave function?) works both ways, but one is far more probable than the other.
          If I see a barium and krypton nucleus collide and fuse into a stationary U235 nucleus, you will not be able to persuade me that the film is not running backward.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Excellent! And think of all the other good this could do!

    • Because that might mean that autism is already setting in before certain Eeeeeevil vaccines have been given.

      Maybe we can use this to predict who's going to get vaccinations?

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      Hey, why are you deriding the anti-vaxxers? They are just trying to make evolution work again (killing the stupid) and that is to be applauded, not ridiculed!

      • If this only affected their kids, I'd actually side with them and say vaccines should be a parent's choice. I'd still call not vaccinating the wrong choice, but it would be their choice. However, a parent who doesn't vaccinate their child weakens herd immunity and exposes other people to diseases. People who a) are too young to be vaccinated, b) can't be vaccinated for valid medical reasons, or c) were vaccinated but the vaccine didn't "take" (vaccines aren't 100% but herd immunity usually covers the fracti

    • Sorry, but it seems autism was redefined as... NOT HEARING VOICES. Which is NORMAL. It can be proven, argued. Next they will start saying the neocortex is a disease and language ability a nuisance: Guards! THAT MAN says he can COUNT!!!
  • FAKE NEWS (Score:4, Funny)

    by DonaId Trump ( 4811527 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @08:51PM (#53877253)
    Believe me, folks, this study by so-called "scientists" is dead wrong. Anyone with a brain knows vaccines are what cause autism. I refused to have Barron vaccinated and look, he's the best at cyber, he's a huge cyber, he's going to be running the whitehouse.ru website.
    • he's going to be running the whitehouse.ru website.

      Oh - Rule 34 alert! Whether or not it's a pr0n site, let alone a "tiny hands and hard sports" site, I don't know. But I'm seeing that domain linked to two addresses in 90.156.201.xxx

      No idea who is cybersquatting on it, but props for forethought and planning.

  • You're kidding... really? I always thought that it didn't exist until the doctor told you that you had it... so they're tell us now that we all could just be undiagnosed. Noted!
    • by mmell ( 832646 )
      It does explain the current POTUS pretty well, doesn't it? No social or interpersonal skills to speak of, doesn't work or play well with others . . . a shame it wasn't caught when he was young.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @09:05PM (#53877313)
    even by a little bit
    • I think fractured bones may push this statement to its breaking point.

  • Though autism probably isn't one consistent, monolithic thing, it's long been suspected that one's autistic fate is potentially sealed before birth. A quick search yields: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/p... [nih.gov]
  • Autism has a prevalence of (very roughly) 2%. If the MRI test falsely diagnoses children without autism as being autistic 20% of the time, then roughly 90% of all people who test positive will not be autistic. You might be able to get a little bit better by only screening at-risk children (e.g. family history of autism), but this is still going to be wildly inaccurate and what would even be the point? It's not like parents have to do anything differently until the symptoms of autism present themselves.


    • by BigDukeSix ( 832501 ) on Wednesday February 15, 2017 @09:53PM (#53877591)
      With respect, you have missed the point (completely). This isn't about finding a screening test. This is an objective, likely quantitative readout from a standard imaging study that can be used as an endpoint in clinical trials. Most clinical trials in this area fail because they use some sort of subjective behavioral scoring system, rather than a quantity that can be measured (with a very expensive ruler) from the patient. And ... 2% of the population? That's a fucking wet dream for a big pharmaceutical company. This finding has the potential to take autism from the realm of voodoo into a treatable clinical entity.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        It doesn't usually work like that. The FDA is (quite rightly) suspicious of putative surrogate measures in clinical trials. It takes a lot of work to actually get something like an imaging metric accepted as a surrogate and validated as a primary outcome, and very few have been.

        This study provides clues about what exactly autism is and when it starts. Its interesting scientifically, and having something you can image will help immensely for scientific studies, just as you describe.

      • There is no such thing as "autism", there is a number of different behaviors on the autistic spectrum. The study references the spectrum, but I'm not going to spend $32 to find out which behaviors they correlated with.

        Example: My daughter was diagnosed as Autistic at age 3 & 1/2, she was given a 13 point test by a psychologist, and she scored over on 7 of the tests (I think scoring over on 6 is considered autistic), but she was barely over on those. She was given the test because her vocabulary had sta

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      And that was no the point, at least not directly. It is just one more piece of the puzzle, and it means you can start firming up a diagnosis way earlier. Of course you cannot use a single test that has a high probability of error, but it helps as part of a set of tests. Statistics 101.

    • Imagine all the healthy babies aborted because they thought they had autism.

    • If the MRI test falsely diagnoses children without autism as being autistic 20% of the time, then roughly 90% of all people who test positive will not be autistic.

      According to the abstract, only 12% of those tested positive were not later diagnosed as autistic. You're just making argument over nonsense numbers, when the real numbers are available.

      • You both aren't understanding the abstract. The abstract says it has a "positive predictive value" of 81%, that's the number of diagnoses that turn out to be true. Sensitivity was 88%, that's the percent of autistic kids detected by the test.

        So if a population has 2% autistic rate, and you ran this test on 1,000 children, 20 kids will later turn out to be autistic, and a Sensitivity rate of 88% says that somewhere between 17 and 18 will have been detected by the test. The positive prediction value says that

  • It is nice to diagnose, but without treatment, what will the outcome be?
    • Science moves one step at a time.

    • Diagnosis is a treatment in itself for this type of thing. The earlier and more certainly parents recognize this is a neurological issue and not just behavioral (or a result of vaccines, demonic possession, etc.) the less likely they are to treat their kids in a way that fucks them up further.
  • Sounds like a good time to bring back trepanation

  • by Anonymous Coward

    bitztream [slashdot.org] claims he can detect autism just by looking at the parents in 3..... 2..... 1.....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Salon has a great article on autism: The Monster Inside My Son! [salon.com]

    Scary stuff. The stuff of horror movies.

  • The rise in autism correlates heavily with geriatric parents (ie men and women who have children after 35). There was a study done that highlighted such a correlation. Posting on mobile, otherwise i'd link directly to one.
    • Correlation is not causation. It's equally possible that thirty years ago parents at that age were the exception and aspies were regarded as nutters and just sent to play away from the normal kids.

  • How the hell can you claim that vaccines have no link to autism when not a single vaccine in history has been tested against a placebo?
    If you want to argue this fact show me one single study which used an actual placebo, not the adjuvant without the rest, an actual placebo.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!