Autism and similar neuro-developmental conditions vary widely in severity from person to person, making it challenging to diagnose and devise a course of treatment.  Researchers at the University of Rochester recently completed a study that could provide an early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). 

     The rapid eye movements we make when we shift our attention from one object to another are known as saccades.  According to the study’s authors, these movements are “essential to navigating, understanding, and interacting with the world around us. In healthy individuals, these saccades are rapid, precise, and accurate, redirecting the line of sight from one point of interest to another.”

     The area of the brain that controls saccades is the cerebellum.  It has been traditionally understood to play a role in motor control and more recently recognized as essential to emotion and comprehension through its connections to the rest of the brain.  According to the article, there is growing evidence that the makeup of the cerebellum is altered in people with ASD. 

     I think this discovery could potentially be very helpful.  One of the current difficulties in medicine is being able to diagnose autism and other spectrum conditions early enough.  With any autism spectrum disorder, the sooner we have the diagnosis, the better the chances are for improvement.  I have treated children with autism who have actually lost their autism diagnosis altogether because we have been able to start treatment early enough, generally before the age of four.   Click here or on the photo to read the article.