Scientists Find Link Between Autism and Brainwaves

Any parent whose child has autism knows that the child may exhibit a wide range of behaviors when he or she is on the spectrum. But it turns out that most autistic children do have something in common: distinctly different pattern of brainwaves, according to two new studies out of Boston Children’s Hospital.

A study published today by Dr. Frank H. Duffy found that EEG scans of autistic children were remarkably consistent over 40 different measurements when compared with brain scans of children not on the spectrum. Duffy tells WBUR’s Common Health blog that he hopes the EEG will become a new tool in diagnosing and monitoring autism, as it is far easier to use on children (as opposed to a restrictive MRI scan).

Also at Children’s, Dr. Charles Nelson has been using EEG scans to help determine whether infants are at high risk of developing autism. In a study published last week, he and his colleagues found that the EEG scans of high-risk children demonstrated fewer brainwave patterns during a series of activities including consciousness, processing, and integration of information. He’s hoping that early diagnosis of high-risk infants will enable doctors to help with early intervention.

Both doctors tell Common Health that realizing that brainwave patterns of autistic children are distinctly different may help us better understand the disorder down the line.