Simple eye test helps detect autism in children

First author Georgina Lynch said the proof-of-concept study builds on previous work to support the continued evolution of mobile technology that can provide a quick and easy way to screen. children with autism, a disorder that affects communication and social interaction with others. Such a tool would allow healthcare providers to catch children earlier in their development when interventions are most likely to benefit them.

Lynch, assistant professor at WSU Elson S. Floyd University School of Medicine, who has worked with children with autism, said: “We know that when we intervene early at 18 to 24 months of age, it has a lasting impact on their results. practice as a speech-language pathologist.


“Intervention at that critical moment can be the difference between a speech-receptive and non-verbal child. Yet, after 20 years of trying, we still haven’t changed the average age of diagnosis. in America, it’s four years old.”

Pupil light reflex to detect autism in children

Published in the magazine Neuroscience, the study examined 36 children aged 6 to 17 years who had previously been diagnosed with autism along with a group of 24 typical developing children serving as controls. Children’s pupillary light reflexes were tested by trained clinical providers using a hand-held monocular, eye-by-eye pupilometer.

Analyzing the results, the researchers found that children with autism had a significant difference in the time it took for their pupils to contract in response to light. Their pupils also took longer to return to their original size after the light was removed.

“What we’ve done with this study is we’ve demonstrated the parameters of interest for that matter – contraction rate and return to baseline,” Lynch said. “And we demonstrated it with monocular technology because we knew that there was no significant difference between eyes in pupillary response in autism, unlike head trauma or concussion, where unequal pupil sizes are often seen.

An earlier study led by Lynch tested children in the lab using pupil measurement, uses an expensive, fixed setup to measure both eyes at the same time. The lower cost and portability associated with monocular technology makes it possible to move the test into clinical settings similar to those where the screening tool Lynch is developing could be used when it is available. sold on the market.

Supported by funding from the Washington Research Foundation, Lynch is now working to expand the trial to a group of 300 children ages 2 to 4 and older across a larger number of medical facilities. Data from that study will be used to validate previous findings and will be incorporated into the final screening device to provide benchmark providers that can be used to decide whether to refer. a child goes to judge or not.

Meanwhile, Lynch is preparing to file for Food and Drug Administration approval of the screening device through Appiture Biotechnologies, a subsidiary she co-founded to help move the technology from the environment. academic research into widespread use in pediatric clinics.

Lynch’s desire to improve autism screening grew from her experience watching parents struggle through the arduous process of pursuing an official diagnosis for their child.

Timely screening is important for autism

While an estimated one in 44 children in the US is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age 8, many are misdiagnosed or completely missed due to the subjective nature of the process. diagnose. Having a rapid, objective screening method to enhance behavioral screening can help improve the accuracy and speed of diagnosing children. Considering pupillary light reflection as a potential screening biomarker has implications for Lynch based on her own observations and previous studies that have detected abnormalities in the reflections. bright pupils of autistic children.

“Even as a clinician, I see this state in children with ASD, where their pupils are very dilated even in bright light,” says Lynch. “That system is regulated in the brain by cranial nerves that originate in the brain stem and adjacent cranial nerves that affect your ability to acquire speech and language. check the integrity of that system, so it seems reasonable to try this very simple, non-invasive measure to determine if there is a difference between typical development and autism.”


1. Eye test can screen for autism in children – (

Source: Eurekalert

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