The way autism is diagnosed could become less subjective by using a brain-imaging-based test that is being developed by researchers and that, in early trials, was 94 percent accurate. Autism is now diagnosed through a symptom-based test: A health-care provider observes a patient for the characteristics outlined in the psychology reference book, “The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV.”
The new test is based on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) screen. In its trials, it was able to distinguish between people who have autism and others by changes in their brains. However, the findings were preliminary — researchers tried out this method of diagnosis on only two groups of patients; both groups were males with high-functioning autism.
But this test brings “the potential for younger people to have their autism diagnosed” earlier, said study researcher Nicholas Lange, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Neurostatistics Laboratory at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.