The Early Identification of Autism: Examinations of Brain and Behavior
Autism is a developmental disorder impacting one out of every 100 children born today. It is a disorder that affects how the brain grows and works, yet the functional brain characteristics of autism during the time when symptoms first appear, namely 12-36 months, is almost completely unknown. This is because autism remains behaviorally defined and diagnosed, thus limiting the ages that it can be studied. New early identification approaches, however, such as the 1-Year Well-Baby Check-Up Approach, will help push the age of first diagnosis much lower and allow for the study and treatment of autism as young as 12-months or younger. This lecture will consider how early screening at the 1st birthday can positively impact the search for biomarkers and lead to new discoveries. This lecture will also emphasize patterns of eye gaze as a potent early marker of autism and consider how fMRI can be used to examine neural functional organization in response to language in ASD toddlers. This research is supported by NIMH Autism Center of Excellence (P50) and R01 grants.