Tuesday August 21, 2018

Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism

An app-based approach can reach into underserved areas better and make it much easier to track an individual child's changes over time

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Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism
Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism. Pixabay
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An iPhone app has shown to be effective and easy to use for screening young children with signs of autism, paving the way to broader, easier access to screening other neurodevelopmental disorders, according to researchers.

The “Autism & Beyond” app first administers caregiver consent forms and survey questions and then uses the phone’s “selfie” camera to collect videos of young children’s reactions while they watch movies designed to elicit autism risk behaviours, such as patterns of emotion and attention, on the device’s screen.

The videos of the child’s reactions are sent to the study’s servers, where automatic behavioural coding software tracks the movement of video landmarks on the child’s face and quantifies the child’s emotions and attention.

For example, in response to a short movie of bubbles floating across the screen, the video coding algorithm looks for movements of the face that would indicate joy.

An app-based approach can reach into underserved areas better and make it much easier to track an individual child’s changes over time, said Guillermo Sapiro, professor at Duke University in North Carolina.

Representational image.
Representational image. (IANS)

The app, described in journal npj Digital Medicine, can analyse emotional reactions in children as young as 18 months and without having to see a specialist in person, allowing for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Current screening for autism in young children is done in clinical settings, rather than the child’s natural environment, and highly trained people are needed to both administer the test and analyse the results.

But, “this technology has the potential to transform how we screen and monitor children’s development”, Sapiro said.

Also Read: Apple Approves Telegram App Update

For the study, 1,756 families with children aged from one to six years participated.

Parents completed 5,618 surveys and uploaded 4,441 videos.

Usable data were collected on 88 per cent of the uploaded videos, demonstrating for the first time the feasibility of this type of tool for observing and coding behaviour in natural environments. (IANS)

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Risk of Autism in Kids Associated with Mother’s Pesticide Levels

In addition, the odds of children having autism with intellectual disability were increased more than twofold with maternal DDE levels above this threshold

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Mothers' pesticide levels linked to autism risk in kids. Pixabay

Elevated pesticide levels in pregnant women are associated with an increased risk of autism among their children, says a study.

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with largely unknown causes. It is characterised by problems with communication, difficulty relating to people and events, and repetitive body movements or behaviours.

“These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that maternal exposure to insecticides is associated with autism among offspring,” the researchers said.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, examined whether elevated maternal levels of persistent organic pollutants are associated with autism among children.

Persistent organic pollutants are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world.

The researchers, including Professor Alan Brown from Columbia University Medical Centre in the US, analysed levels of DDE, a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).

These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that maternal exposure to insecticides is associated with autism among offspring
These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that maternal exposure to insecticides is associated with autism among offspring. Pixabay

Although DDT and other persistent organic pollutants were widely banned in many countries decades ago, they persist in the food chain, resulting in continuous exposure among populations.

These chemicals transfer across the placenta, resulting in potential prenatal exposure among nearly all children.

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The researchers evaluated levels of DDE in maternal serum samples drawn from more than 750 children with autism and matched control participants from a national birth cohort study, the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism.

The odds of autism among children were significantly increased in mothers whose DDE levels were elevated (defined as the 75th percentile or greater).

In addition, the odds of children having autism with intellectual disability were increased more than twofold with maternal DDE levels above this threshold, the study said. (IANS)