On 10 August, new research was released that has found MRI scans could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool for autism.
The research from King's College and the Institute of Psychiatry, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), was a small-scale study based on 20 adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The researchers say that through MRI scans they have identified some key differences between the brain functioning of people with autism and neurotypical participants, and are able to pinpoint biological markers - rather than personality traits - to assess whether or not a person has autism. The researchers hope that in time this type of brain scan could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool.
Whilst we welcome this important research, which helps to add to our knowledge about autism, this test is not yet a reality and still requires further testing.
Ultimately we need to ensure we have well trained professionals with a strong understanding of autism, who can recognise the signs of autism and ensure that people get the correct diagnosis. Once a person has a diagnosis, it is then still a case of ensuring that the right advice and support is put in place.
On the day this reaearch was announced, the NAS sent out a statement welcoming the study but pointing out that it is not yet developed as a test and may not be for a long time. Our views were included in many national papers including The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and The Sun. Many broadcasters covered the story, with Carol Povey being consulted on BBC News at Ten and Emma Noble representing us on ITN News at Ten. Carol also spoke on twelve BBC regional BBC stations and NAS Director of Communications, Benet Middleton, appeared on the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio London.
Carol Povey, Director of The National Autistic Society's Centre for Autism, says:
This study gives an insight into the way people with autism process and understand the world around them, which is particularly valuable. Eventually, the researchers hope that brain scans might also be a useful diagnostic tool.While further testing is still required, any tools which could help identify autism at an earlier stage, have the potential to improve a person's quality of life by allowing the right support to be put in place as soon as possible. However, diagnosis is only the first step.At The National Autistic Society, we frequently receive calls from people who have struggled to get support, leaving them anxious, frustrated and in some cases depressed or even suicidal. Research that improves our understanding of autism, is therefore part of a wider struggle to enable people with autism to access appropriate support at every stage of their life.