Autism signs found in 6-month-old babies

The early signs of autism can be detected in babies as young as six months, a new study has found, suggesting future treatments could be given at this time to lessen the impact of the disorder on children.

Researchers at University of North Carolina who looked at how the brain develops in early life found that tracts of white matter that connect different regions of the brain did not form as quickly in children who later developed autism, compared with kids who didn't develop the disorder.

"The way the wiring was changing was dampened" in the children with autism, said study researcher Jason Wolff. "It was a more blunted change over time, in how the brain was being wired," Wolff said.

In contrast, in the brains of infants who did not later develop autism, white matter tracts were swiftly forming , he said. "Their brains were organizing themselves in a pretty rapid fashion."

The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that during a child's first year, "there is a potential to intervene, to disrupt autism before it becomes entrenched," Wolff said. "There are a lot of possibilities to improve outcomes for these children.

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