Brain Scans May Forecast Language Abilities in Kids With ASD Brain scans could predict future language development in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study from the University of California-San Diego. Researchers in the study detected differences in brain activation in toddlers and infants as young as 1 to 2 years old, around the youngest ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   July 01, 2015
Brain Scans May Forecast Language Abilities in Kids With ASD
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Development / Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   July 01, 2015
Brain Scans May Forecast Language Abilities in Kids With ASD
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.20072015.14
The ASHA Leader, July 2015, Vol. 20, 14. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB1.20072015.14
Brain scans could predict future language development in young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study from the University of California-San Diego.
Researchers in the study detected differences in brain activation in toddlers and infants as young as 1 to 2 years old, around the youngest age children can be noted as at risk for autism, the authors say. They theorize that these differences could signal how well a child develops language skills later in life.

Differences in brain activation in toddlers and infants as young as 1 year old could signal how well a child at risk for ASD develops language skills later in life.

Symptoms of ASD vary widely—as some children grow older, their language abilities increase considerably, while others’ language abilities stay stagnant or even decrease over time. This study, published in the journal Neuron, could help create more identifiable diagnostic markers and open up access to earlier treatment, say its authors.
“It’s important to develop more and new biological ways to identify and stratify the ASD population into clinical subtypes so that we can create better, more individualized treatments,” says co-author Karen Pierce, associate professor of neuroscience and co-director of the Autism Center of Excellence at UC-San Diego.
Led by Michael V. Lombardo, senior researcher at the University of Cambridge and assistant professor at the University of Cyprus-Pierce, the study used functional MRI scans to evaluate the brains of 103 children ages 1–2 as they listened to a spoken story.
The authors later assessed the children’s language comprehension and speaking skills at ages 3–4. Sixty of the children were diagnosed with ASD, but the 36 with ASD who performed well on the language tests had shown similar brain patterns in language-development regions to those in the neurotypical group. The 24 children who fell below average on the assessments had displayed reduced or abnormal function in the same regions.
With the study’s findings serving as possible biomarkers of an ASD subtype, the authors say continued research could help determine which treatments are most helpful, depending on where a person lies on the spectrum.
2 Comments
July 10, 2015
Kristina Curro
Citation?
I'm happy to see ASHA reporting research briefs like these, but it would be very helpful to include a full citation for those of us who'd like to look up the original article. Thanks!
July 13, 2015
Haley Blum
Responding to Kristina
Hi Kristina, Thanks for the feedback! We do include a hyperlink in each research brief that goes to the original article. I hope this is helpful, but we will take a look into your request about citations, too. Best, Haley Blum Writer/Editor for The ASHA Leader
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July 2015
Volume 20, Issue 7