Advanced 3-D Facial Imaging In Early Detection Of Autism

Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders diagnosed in patients who exhibit a shared core of symptoms, including delays in learning to communicate and interact socially. Early detection of autism in children is the key for treatments to be most effective and produce the best outcomes. Using advanced three-dimensional imaging and statistical analysis techniques, researchers have identified facial measurements in children with autism that may lead to a screening tool for young children and provide clues to its genetic causes. The findings were published in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Expanding upon previous studies using two-dimensional imaging, the researchers used a system of cameras to photograph and generate three-dimensional images of children's faces. The children selected were between 8 and 12 years old. One group of children had been diagnosed with autism; the other group consisted of typically developing children. Researchers photographed the faces of children using three-dimensional imaging, which allowed scientists to measure distances along the curvature of the face rather than in a straight line as had been done in previous tests. They then ran sophisticated statistical analyses to measure minute differences in the facial measurements of each group.

The group's analyses revealed three distinct subgroups of children with autism who had similar measurement patterns in their facial features. These subgroups also shared similarities in the type and severity of their autism symptoms.

The next steps include inviting other research groups to replicate the findings and to perform DNA analyses to look for specific genes associated with each subgroup. Identifying genes associated with each subtype of autism could potentially lead to the development of more effective treatments and drug therapies.

Below is a video from MU News Bureau.

Originally posted by University of Missouri-Columbia.