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Researchers Discover Test That May Identify Autism Patients

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(credit: Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)

(credit: Matthew Simmons/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — Researchers from Harvard and McLean Hospital have developed the first biological test that uses MRIs to measure differences in the brain’s wiring that could ultimately identify patients with autism.

Nicholas Lange, Associate Professor or Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Neurostatistics Laboratory at McLean Hospital explains. “We found six physical features of the brain’s wiring that could help distinguish people that had been previously diagnosed with autism with 94 percent accuracy.”

WBZ-TV’s Jonathan Elias has more.

Experts say more studies need to be done, but they hope this new test will eventually allow them to diagnose autism earlier and lead to better treatments by shedding new light on the disorder.

”We can learn what we can change and what we can not change all with the goal of helping people with autism,” said Lange.

These new findings are welcome news to parents like Marty Martini whose 22-year-old son is autistic.

He’s also a board member of the Flutie Foundation for Autism and runs Minuteman ARC in Concord, which provides programs for children and adults with autism. “I think given the prevalence of autism, any test that can give early detection and drive effective treatment is a really good thing,” said Martini.

Larger-scale studies are now being done, but experts hope the test will be available to patients within a few years.

They’re also doing trials to see if the test can only be used to diagnose ADHD and OCD or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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