Eye care professionals may be able to detect autism in the future, with a quick and simple eye scan using a modified RETeval-DR Electroretinogram.
The ground-breaking method to detect autism could potentially identify the condition years earlier than is currently possible, enabling earlier intervention.
As a culmination of thirteen years of research, the method may also have implications for early detection of other neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety.
Flinders University’s Dr Paul Constable has been searching for an autism eye-biomarker since 2006, a journey shaped by his son’s experiences surrounding an autism diagnosis at the age of three.
He presented his team’s preliminary findings at the recent International Society for Autism Research conference in Canada, from a trial comprising children aged between five and 21 years from centres based in the UK, USA and at Flinders University to examine 89 individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 87 without ASD.
“The retina is an extension of the brain, made of neural tissue and connected to the brain by the optic nerve, so it was an ideal place to look,” Dr Constable says.
“We found a pattern of subtle electrical signals in the retina that are different in children on the autism spectrum, which relates to differences in their brain development.”
His research, in collaboration with Yale University in the US, and University College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital in the UK, will now establish the test’s effectiveness on younger children.