Autism can be diagnosed through an eye test | Rare Techy


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) vary in degree of severity and in the manner in which they are symptomatically expressed. The unpredictable nature of ASD, as each person responds differently, creates many challenges for clinicians and treatment plans trying to diagnose the disorder. Being able to identify what type of medical condition a person has is an inherent first step in providing effective treatment.

New research has revealed that in a specific phenotype of ASD, the cerebellum – the part of the brain involved in motor control, emotions and cognitive functions – is structured differently than in individuals without the disorder. In particular, the cerebellum is responsible for controlling rapid eye movements, and practitioners may use the relationship between the two as an important tool when trying to diagnose ASD in patients.

For the majority of the population, rapid eye movements are precise and very fast. They help us understand and process the world around us. If the structure of the cerebellum is different in patients with a particular subtype of ASD, studying their rapid eye movements may be a way to diagnose the disorder.

A new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center examined this phenomenon to determine whether or not this system in the brain could be used as a diagnostic tool. In a series of tests, the researchers tracked the eye movements of participants with and without ASD.

Eye movements are different in people with ASD

Participants were asked to visually track a target that changed locations on a screen. The design of the tests often resulted in the participant’s perspective “overshooting” the target. In participants without ASD, the brain automatically corrects this “error” by immediately focusing on the intended target. ASD sufferers continued to miss the target, indicating that the part of the brain that controls their eye movements was damaged.

Researchers believe that this inability of the brain to focus properly may be an indicator of more than just a cerebellum defect. They also see this as suggesting a reason behind social and communicative differences in ASD patients.

This type of experimental eye test can be useful to medical practitioners when trying to diagnose ASD. If the patient shows the same inability to fixate the missing target, it may indicate an abnormality of the cerebellum seen in a subset of ASD patients. Further research is needed to fully understand the meaning of these findings and how they may affect future diagnoses and treatments of ASD.

Reprinted from BelMarra.com


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