Children with autism make less eye contact than others of the same age, an indicator that is used to diagnose the developmental disorder after the age of two years. But a paper published today (November 6, 2013) in Nature reports that infants as young as two months can display signs of this condition, the earliest detection of autism symptoms yet.
Its a small study, but if it can be replicated in a larger population, it might provide a way of diagnosing autism in infants so that therapies can begin early.
The researchers in this study showed infants video images of their careers and used eye-tracking equipment and software to track where the babies gazed. Between two and six months of age, these children tended to look at eyes less and less over time. However, when the study began, these infants tended to gaze at eyes just as often as children who would not later develop autism.
This finding may point to a window for interventions aimed at treating autism, since its possible to identify children at this early time point in life. It surely is too early to use this findings to diagnose autism, for that to happen, a much larger population studies need to establish that a decline in gazing at eyes can accurately predict the development of autism. But it seems promising.
The article from Nature can be found here: