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New imaging analysis reveals distinct features of the autistic brain

A new method for analyzing brain-scan data has allowed researchers here to distinguish children with autism from typically developing children; in a study involving 48 children, gray matter in a network of brain regions known to affect social communication and self-related thoughts was shown to have a distinct organization in people with the disorder. Our release describes the work and includes a quote on its significance from one of the study authors:

"We are getting closer to being able to use brain-imaging technology to help in the diagnosis and treatment of individuals with autism," said child psychiatrist Antonio Hardan, MD, who is the study's other senior author and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford…

Brain scans are not likely to completely replace traditional methods of autism diagnosis, which rely on behavioral assessments, Hardan added, but they may eventually aid diagnosis in toddlers.

The findings are being published online today in Biological Psychiatry. Hardan and his colleagues at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital now plan to repeat the study in younger children and to extend it to larger groups of study participants.

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