MAY 07, 2018 2:43 PM PDT

Sensory Processing Important for Autism Diagnosis

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

At less than a year old, an individual’s response to light can predict whether or not they’ll be diagnosed with autism later in life. In a new study from Uppsala University, researchers show how sensory processing may play a role in the development of autism.

In general, autism is a developmental disorder primarily impacting communication and behavior, and symptoms usually occur in the first two years of a child’s life.

"Earlier studies on older children with autism has suggested a weak pupillary light reflex in this group,” explained principal investigator Terje Falck-Ytter from Uppsala University. “These findings motivated us to assess the reflex in infant siblings of children with autism.”

However, in the new study researchers observed the opposite relationship between the pupillary light reflex and diagnosis with autism.

The pupillary light reflex is the pupil’s response to changing light conditions. By contracting or dilating, the pupil regulates the amount of light that reaches the retina. This reflex allows the pupils to react together or consensually, and it occurs even when a person is unconscious.

The study involved evaluating the pupillary light reflex in 147 9-to-10 month-old infants. For those infants who would later be diagnosed with autism at three years old, researchers saw more pupil constriction in response to changing light conditions than infants who were not diagnosed with autism. According to results from a follow-up after three years, the amount of pupil constriction in infancy was associated with autism severity.

"We believe the findings are important because they point to a very basic function that has not been studied before in infants with later autism diagnosis,” Falck-Ytter said.

A 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance study showed that one in 59 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). More boys (one in 37) are affected than girls (one in 151).

"Currently, autism cannot be reliably diagnosed before 2-3 years of age, but we hope that with more knowledge about the early development of the condition, reliable diagnosis will be possible earlier, which should facilitate early access to intervention and support for the families,” Falck-Ytter concluded. “New knowledge about early development in autism may also provide new leads on strategies for early intervention.”

The present study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Sources: Autism Speaks, Uppsala University, Core Psychiatry (Third Edition), National Institute of Mental Health

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog:
You May Also Like
SEP 08, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 08, 2019
Acute Flaccid Myelitis and Its Association With Enterovirus D68
Acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a polio-like infection, caught the attention of physicians in the U.S. during late summer and early fall in 2014. The outbrea...
SEP 24, 2019
SEP 24, 2019
Flu Shot Less Effective Due to Overuse of Antibioitics
New research out of the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that the consequence of overuse of antibiotics lowers the effectiveness of the seasona...
SEP 26, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 26, 2019
The Invisible Killers in Your Home
Do you know a mist of air freshener or the burning of a deliciously-scented candle in your home is a "sweet" and a slow poison to you and your loved ones....
DEC 05, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 05, 2019
Catching drug-resistant HIV mutants with next generation sequencing
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are treated with antiretroviral therapies to reduce the amount of circulating virus, restore their...
JAN 30, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
JAN 30, 2020
How To Choose The Right DNA Testing Kit For You
One of the most exciting scientific advancements in the past decade, at least in terms of its impact on pop culture, was the sudden accessibility of home D...
MAR 23, 2020
MAR 23, 2020
The Loss of a Sense of Smell May be a Major Symptom of COVID-19
The loss of the sense of smell may be a symptom of a COVID-19 infection in people with no other symptoms....
Loading Comments...