A new study shows that studying how a child moves would help diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders including autism.
There is no medical test to diagnose autism, such as a blood test or genetic testing for example. But a new study, published in the newspaper Scientific Reports, proposes a more precise method than the previous ones which were based on subjective criteria, like a disorder of the movement of the eyes or the repetition of gestures.
Movement, biomarker of autism
"We have discovered that each person has their own 'movement DNA'," explains Jorge V. José, one of the authors of the study. Even the most imperceptible variations in movement would make it possible to detect an autistic disorder.
To conduct this study, researchers examined how 70 volunteers moved their arms to touch an object on a screen. Then everyone was given a score based on the speed fluctuations of their movement. The lower the score, the higher the risk of autism. Researchers used high-resolution, high-speed sensors to track fluctuations invisible to the naked eye.
Of these 70 people, 30 were already diagnosed with autism and aged between 7 and 30 years old. Also present in the group, 15 people called neurotypic (that is to say neither autistic nor affected by Asperger syndrome) aged between 19 and 31 years; six neurotypical children and finally 20 neurotypical parents of autistic children.
Prevent the risk for parents
In conducting this study, the researchers made a discovery. Some parents, without a neurodevelopmental disorder, nevertheless obtained a low score during the trial.
For scientists, this could help detect the risk of parents having children with autism. A hypothesis that will be the subject of a future study.