fMRI bolsters diagnosis, management of autism

Functional MRI can identify brain activity patterns unique to people with autism spectrum disorders. Findings suggest that quantitative fMRI-based measurements could improve the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Principal investigator Pearl H. Chiu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and colleagues asked high-functioning people with ASD and normal subjects to play an interpersonal game that involved social trust as they underwent fMR scans. The investigators found that the pattern of activity in the cingulate cortex of people with ASD indicated a diminished perception of themselves in a social interaction. This activity pattern resembled one seen in normal people when they play against a computer. Researchers published findings in the Feb. 7 issue of Neuron.