Autism, or a Brain Disorder? New Screening Advances in Autism Objective Diagnosis with EEG by Dr. Aditi Shankardass
Are You Sure It Is Autism?
Autism is an often misunderstood term. The word "autism" actually refers to a special type of disorder among several "autistic spectrum disorders" (ASD). Another ASD would be Asperger syndrome. However, there is no doubt that the problem is definitely in the brain.
However, all current autism diagnosis guide specifies behavioral testing, instead of biological testing. The tests are often conducted via questionnaire, and often rely on subjective ratings by the parents. In other words, "tests" for autism are subjective, instead of objective.
Three major breakthroughs in 2010 regarding diagnosis of autism is offering hope to some people with ASD: better diagnosis.
MRI Test for Autism
A test devised by University of Utah researchers using MRI brain scan was able to identify patients with high-functioning autism with 94% accuracy.
The MRI scan checks the portions of the brain related to social, language, and emotion processing. By making detailed scans of those areas, deviations can be detected from normal brains.
This will lead to proper diagnosis that is not based on behavioral analysis.
Sensory Integration Test through qEEG
When a normal brain is engaged with multiple senses at once (sound, smell, vision, touch, etc.) the brain activity increase to cope with all the perceptions. In an autistic brain, the opposite happens. The brain cannot cope with all the inputs and starts to shut down, so the brain activity actually decrease when sensory inputs increase.
This will allow simpler detection of autism that is no longer dependent on subjective interpretations, esp. when combined with other techniques, such as the MRI technique above.
EEG Brain Scan as Diagnosis
Most autism diagnosis are done through behavior alone. Autism symptoms are described as "impairments in social interaction; impairments in communication; and restricted interests and repetitive behavior." So how do you really diagnose autism? Is there a better way?
Enter Dr. Aditi Shankardass.
Dr. Aditi Shankardass is a neuroscientist who has specialized in pediatric development issues. Previously she had done a study on how brain scan can be used to diagnose dyslexia, and her more recent study identified some startling revelations about autism: almost 50% of the patients previously diagnosed with autism have small brain seizures. The seizures cannot be detected by behavior analysis, as they appear to be a part of the autism "social impairment", yet they show up on the EEG very clearly.
Please note that these brain seizures are NOT the cause or the effect of autism, but rather, a part of the overall autism behavior of the patient. Some are actually causing the symptoms often attributed to / diagnosed as autism.
Without an EEG, you would have never known.
While autism itself is still without treatment, brain seizures can often be treated by various antiepileptic drugs currently available. And hundreds of patients previously diagnosed with autism are now living normal lives once their brain seizures have been treated.
What's more, existing autism diagnosis guide indicates that EEG is usually NOT needed. Though to be honest, existing guidelines are talking about the regular EEG, not the qEEG that Dr. Shankardass actually use.
Watch the video presented by Dr. Shankardass at TEDIndia below.
Autism was and still is poorly understood compared to other disorders, but science is making real progress on on diagnosing and treat autism.
However, fear-mongers eager to push their own treatments often claim there is an 'epidemic' of autism, when in fact, it is better diagnosis that lead to increasing number of autism cases.
Don't let quacks and pseudo-science sidetrack you or your child from real hope offered by proper science.
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