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: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
MAR 25, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
A coronavirus testing kit with glow-in-the-dark Mango?
MAR 25, 2020
A coronavirus testing kit with glow-in-the-dark Mango?
A group of Canadian researchers is responding to a desperate need for COVID-19 diagnostic kits with their fluorescent im ...
MAR 29, 2020
Cancer
MicroRNA as a New Way to Test for Lung Cancer
MAR 29, 2020
MicroRNA as a New Way to Test for Lung Cancer
The most common, and most deadly, cancer across the world is lung cancer. If caught early, lung cancer has quite a low m ...
APR 01, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
One dollar kit diagnoses COVID-19 in 10 minutes
APR 01, 2020
One dollar kit diagnoses COVID-19 in 10 minutes
Researchers have begun efficacy testing for a new SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic kit that claims to be able to test for COVID-19 ...
APR 06, 2020
Technology
Smart Toilet: The Next Disease-Detecting Technology
APR 06, 2020
Smart Toilet: The Next Disease-Detecting Technology
The next disease-detecting technology could come to a bathroom near you—the Smart Toilet! A toilet designed to det ...
JUN 26, 2020
Cardiology
Drug for Osteoporosis Linked to Increased Risk of Adverse Cardiovascular Events
JUN 26, 2020
Drug for Osteoporosis Linked to Increased Risk of Adverse Cardiovascular Events
In a recent study done by Jonas Bovijn, MBChB, MSc, DLSHTM, of the Big Data Institute at the University of Oxford’ ...
AUG 06, 2020
Clinical & Molecular DX
Device Diagnoses Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes
AUG 06, 2020
Device Diagnoses Breast Cancer in 60 Minutes
Researchers have created a point-of-care device that can provide diagnostic results for breast cancer in under an hour. ...
Loading Comments...