Researchers claim to be able to assess the autism risk of children as young as six months old, HealthDay News reported.

The researchers measured the  electrical activity of infants’ brains with an electroencephalogram (EEG), and aided by a computer algorithm, they categorized the infants as high or low risk for autism.

The computer algorithm, according to researchers, is able to pick up subtle differences in the brain waves that the human eye might not catch.

They studied 79 infants, six to 24 months old.  Forty-six infants had an older sibling with autism, and 33 had no family history of the disease.  When a sibling has autism, children have a much greater likelihood of developing some spectrum of autism as well.


According to previous studies, 20 percent of siblings of children with autism will also develop autism, and an additional 40 to 50 percent will have at least some characteristics of the disorder.
With infants nine months of age, researchers were able to determine which children were in the high risk autism group – in other words, which children had a sibling with autism – with 80 percent accuracy.



A few gender differences also existed, the researchers noted.  With boys who were nine months old, the researchers could predict autism risk with nearly 100 percent accuracy, but with girls, they could only predict it with 60 percent accuracy, which was not statistically significant.

However, with six month old children, they could predict the autism risk for girls with 80 percent accuracy, but could not for boys.

This supports the idea that boys and girls go through slightly different stages of development, according to lead study author William Bosl, a neuroinformatics researcher at Children’s Hospital Boston.

The study was published online at BBC Medicine.

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