Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

New Insights into the Autistic Brain

By Gio Braidotti

Studies of the brain have identified a physiological basis for autism’s impact on human perception, but new technology is making it possible to develop a biologically based diagnostic tool.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Differences in the way our brains process visual information have been detected among people with varying degrees of autistic behaviour, achieving something long sought-after in clinical psychology – a way to diagnose autism biologically rather than behaviourally. This would make autism detectable much sooner, allowing earlier remedial strategies that could, in turn, lead to better lifelong outcomes.

The discovery of biomarkers by Alexandra Sutherland and Prof David Crewther of Swinburne University of Technology is regarded as a groundbreaking development that could significantly improve the management of this difficult and highly stressful condition, especially for parents.

Crewther says that in the absence of biomarkers, autism has been defined exclusively on the basis of behaviour, a situation he laments because it imposes problematic limits on the age at which reliable diagnosis can be made. “Since case histories strongly indicate that early intervention leads to improved lifelong outcomes, there has been a push to identify so-called ‘biomarkers’ for autism – simple but reliable biological tests that predict the presence of autism and can be applied at infancy,” he says.

The Swinburne study found that people with higher autistic tendencies process visual information differently, relying on neurons that are more sensitive to colour and spatial...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.