For years, researchers have known through numerous studies that hearing and other sensory systems of adults and children who have autism differ from children or adults without autism.
Now, University of Miami and Harvard Medical School researchers who explored responses to the standard hearing test administered to millions of newborns around the world, are closing in on a way to detect early indicators of autism–perhaps as early as at birth.
Published in the journal Autism Research, the findings could inform additional research and pave the way for evaluations that can better identify newborns with elevated autism risk by using standard hearing tests. The researchers note that such tests are already regularly and widely used to screen newborns for hearing loss. The tests work by measuring auditory brainstem response (ABR), which gauges how well a baby’s inner ear and brain respond to sound.
“We’re not at the point just yet where we’re telling clinicians to use ABR testing as a determinant for autism in babies,” said study co-author Elizabeth Simpson, an associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology, whose research focuses on understanding infant social cognitive development. “But we are saying that this study presents a promising direction in how ABR testing can be used as a method for precise autism detection at birth.”
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