Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is characterized by communication and behavior development deficiencies in comparison to peers. These symptoms exist in a wide range and are typically used in diagnostic tests. The earlier patients are diagnosed and treated according to their specific set of symptoms, the better the odds are for healthy social development. Apart from observing behavior, there has not yet been a way to diagnose patients, which can delay treatment start time in some cases. Scientists at Kanazawa University have been working on a technique to utilize brainwave activity to identify ASD symptoms.
The first step to developing this new technique was expanding on their formed hypothesis that autism results from an imbalance in excitatory and inhibitory neuron ratio. A neurotypical individual would posses a ratio of 4 excitatory neurons for every inhibitory neuron.This ratio can be visualized in patients by observing a specific type of brain wave activity referred to as gamma oscillations. Researches studied gamma oscillations in groups of children with and without ASD from ages 5 to 7. Subjects performed specific tasks while being evaluated in response time and brain wave activity.
Scientists expected reaction time to be visibly reduced, but the interesting find came when observing the gamma oscillations. Specifically, a lower frequencies in these brain waves were found, which correlates with reduced inhibitory neuron activity. This finding is characteristic of ASD, and manifests as patients inability to control motor movements at the level of their peers. Observing gamma oscillations, along with current behavioral tests, will assist future patients in earlier diagnosis and therefore better treatment options.