Research in Brief: Micromovements May Reveal Autism Severity Researchers are analyzing minute movements to diagnose autism spectrum disorder and determine its severity in children and young adults, according to research presented at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in November. Building on earlier findings involving the random nature of movements of people with autism, researchers in ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   February 01, 2014
Research in Brief: Micromovements May Reveal Autism Severity
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Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   February 01, 2014
Research in Brief: Micromovements May Reveal Autism Severity
The ASHA Leader, February 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB5.19022014.np
The ASHA Leader, February 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB5.19022014.np
Researchers are analyzing minute movements to diagnose autism spectrum disorder and determine its severity in children and young adults, according to research presented at the 2013 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in November.
Building on earlier findings involving the random nature of movements of people with autism, researchers in the current study—conducted by Jorge V. José, vice president of research at Indiana University, and Elizabeth Torres, the study’s principal investigator and an assistant psychology professor at Rutgers University— examined the entire movement involved in raising and extending a hand to touch a computer screen. The device they used records 240 frames per second, which captures speed changes in the millisecond range, too rapid for the human eye to detect.
“We looked at the curve going up and the curve going down and studied the micromovements,” José says. “When a person reaches for an object, the speed trajectory is not one smooth curve. It has some irregular random movements we call ‘jitter.’ We looked at the properties of those very small fluctuations and identified patterns.” Those patterns or signatures also identify the degree of the severity of the person’s autism spectrum disorder, he says.
In analyzing the movements on a smaller time scale, the researchers found that the movements hold information to help diagnose the continuum of autism spectrum disorder. “Looking at the speed versus time curves of the motion in much more detail, we noticed that in general, many smaller oscillations or fluctuations occur even when the hand is resting in the lap,” José says. “Our remarkable finding is that the fluctuations in this jitter are not just random fluctuations” but instead correspond to unique characteristics of each child’s degree of autism.
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February 2014
Volume 19, Issue 2