Could Brain Fluid Provide an Earlier Diagnosis of Autism?

signs of autism in newborns

Recent research suggests that the presence of cerebrospinal fluid might be seen in a significant proportion of children who have autism.

signs of autism in newborns

Children suffering from developmental or learning issues, such as autism, who are given an early diagnosis have a greater chance of receiving the appropriate resources and instruction to help them achieve.

The disorder may be seen in a variety of ways, and an objective assessment can help identify children who are younger.

Autism spectrum disorder affects around 1 out of 59 children, according to Trusted Source The Department of Health’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

In the spring of this year, researchers from Stanford University published research which found that the low levels of vasopressin, a hormone, in the cerebrospinal fluid of a child could aid in predicting the probability of a child becoming autistic.

However, new research suggests that just being able to detect an increase in the protective fluid that surrounds the brain could indicate clues that could eventually help identify autism earlier in the course of the course of.

The most recent study, which was published this month The Lancet Psychiatry Trusted Source and is funded through the National Institutes of Health, was carried out by researchers from the University of California at Davis MIND Institute as well as at the University of North Carolina.

Researchers found out that an increase in cerebrospinal fluid that was extra-axial was associated with the suspicion of autistic spectrum disorder in infant children.

Researchers have discovered that cerebrospinal fluid was previously thought to be a harmless substance that was able to protect your brain against shock for instance, in the case of concussion.

However, further studies suggest that the fluid plays a larger role in the brain in particular, acting as a method that the brain can cleanse out harmful substances. This is mostly done while we are asleep.

But, excessive amounts of fluid may be a biomarker of autism in children in the early years.

signs of autism in newborns

What did the study reveal

To make this conclusion researchers looked at 236 children.

Of these, 159 suffered from autism spectrum disorder , while 77 did not.

The participants had an average of 3 years old.

Every child received brain MRIs to measure the cerebrospinal fluid in their brains. The team of researchers also utilized “sophisticated” algorithm to analyze the outcomes.

Researchers have found that children who have autism had around 15 % more spinal fluid regardless of the genetic predisposition to autism.

“These brain tests differentiated children with autism from children with normal development at 83 per cent accuracy” scientists concluded.

The earlier studies of the same researchers looked at children at a higher risk of developing autism, for instance siblings with the disorder. But this particular round of research compared children at risk of being high and low risk and monitored them for longer periods of time.

The researcher David Amaral is a professor at the UC Davis psychiatry and behavioral science department. He is also the lead author of the study.

He stated in an announcement that their initial study showed that, if you do an MRI on children who is less than 6 months of age, higher cerebrospinal fluid may indicate the presence of a certain subset of autism. Their subsequent research proved it.

“Now we’ve validated them for the third time in older children, with different levels of risk,” he said.

Effects

The study found that the presence of cerebrospinal fluid was linked to less nonverbal abilities — which is the ability to solve and analyze issues without using words.

The study also found that children who had more cerebrospinal fluid experienced more difficulty sleeping. Researchers have noted that this is important since the flow that this fluid experiences, particularly during sleep, is essential for a healthy brain.

This could help to clarify the reason why children with autism frequently suffer from sleep disorders, like insomnia, and how poor sleep can worsen the symptoms that are associated with autism.

Mark Shen, the first author on the paper , and an assistant professor of psychiatry of the University of North Carolina, states that when you sleep the brain’s fluids are supposed to be moving around the brain and purifying it.

“When an individual doesn’t get enough rest it’s possible to build up proteins that could impact memory, learning and general brain functioning,” he said in an announcement.

Response to study

Dr. David Beversdorf, an autism researcher at the University of Missouri Health Care says he finds the research “quite interesting.”

He claims it’s not a test for those at risk of being affected by their familial specific genetic characteristics that were the subject of earlier studies.

“Therefore the importance of this marker to the autism spectrum disorders more generally is apparent after this research,” he told Healthline.

However, Beversdorf states that it’s unclear how the increased cerebrospinal fluid is a contributing factor to what causes autism since it wasn’t the main subject of this research round.

“What it does show could be a biomarker that is potential early biomarker that has potential to predict future events,” he said. “It isn’t certain that the early imaging process will play any function in the clinical setting, however this is a good indication that it could be used at the very least in research settings for research into the early stages of neurodevelopment.”

Beversdorf also says it’s not certain if the new research shows the increase of cerebrospinal fluid, or a reduction in brain volume. This could cause the appearance of excessive fluid around the brain.

“It isn’t yet known whether this is a specificity to autism spectrum disorders or other neurodevelopmental diseases,” he said. “However there are a variety of reasons for autism so the identification of a biomarker that is applicable to all of the various etiologies could be beneficial.”

Bottom line

While there is still much research to be conducted however, the latest research coming from UC Davis MIND Institute and the University of North Carolina offers an intriguing possibility of uncovering a biomarker to identify a child’s likelihood of becoming autistic.

Researchers believe that the presence of fluid in the brain could be an indication that a child is the highest chance of becoming an autistic child.

It could also be a reason why children suffering from autism struggle with their the ability to communicate and sleep patterns.

Learn More About Autism Here