Researchers Develop Technique to Detect Autism in Children

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 - 15:17

Researchers of University of Waterloo have developed a new technique that can help doctors quickly and accurately detect autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.

According to the science Daily report, researchers characterized how children with ASD scan a person's face differently than a neuro-typical child and developed a technique that considers how a child with ASD gaze transitions from one part of a person's face to another.

According to the developers, the use of this technology makes the diagnostic process less stressful for the children and if combined with existing manual methods could help doctors better avoid a false positive autism diagnosis.

In developing the new technique, the researchers evaluated 17 children with ASD and 23 neuro-typical children. The mean chronological ages of the ASD and neuro-typical groups were 5.5 and 4.8, respectively.

"It is much easier for children to just look at something, like the animated face of a dog, than to fill out a questionnaire or be evaluated by a psychologist," said Anita Layton, a professor of Applied Mathematics, Pharmacy and Biology at Waterloo.

"Also, the challenge many psychologists face is that sometimes behaviors deteriorate over time, so the child might not display signs of autism, but then a few years later, something starts showing up.

"Our technique is not just about behavior or whether a child is focusing on the mouth or eyes. It's about how a child looks at everything."

The study, Network Centrality Analysis of Eye-gaze Data in Autism Spectrum Disorder, authored by Waterloo's Faculty of Mathematics researchers Sadria, Layton and Shahid Beheshti University's Department of Physics graduate student, Soroush Karimi, was recently published in the journal Computers in Biology and Medicine.

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