In research published in the journal Neuron, scientists in Israel used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to look at the brains of sleeping toddlers and found that certain types of neural activity are disrupted in autistic children, but not in typical children or in others with delayed language development.
“What we looked at is how the activity is synchronized,” Ilan Dinstein of Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
“And we found that the synchronization was different — specifically in toddlers with autism and across the hemispheres (of the brain) in areas related to language and communication.”
Autism is a complex and mysterious brain disorder usually first diagnosed in early childhood. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and understanding other people’s emotions and behavior.
Autism disorders are diagnosed in up to one in 100 children in the United States and Europe and affect four times as many boys as girls, but the condition is very often misdiagnosed and doctors are keen to find biological measures to help pinpoint diagnosis and make it more accurate.