It's all in the eyes: This AI machine notices pupil behaviour to predict autism risk

Researchers hope this system could provide an early warning signal for ASD in general.

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Spontaneous pupil dilation and constriction were altered even before the animals began showing ASD-like symptoms.
WASHINGTON DC: Signs and symptoms of autism in children are hard to detect but new research suggests that simple quantifiable measures of artificial intelligence could enable much earlier diagnosis of Rett syndrome and possibly other disorders with autism-like features.

The study published in the journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' unveiled a machine-learning algorithm that can spot abnormalities in pupil dilation that are predictive of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in mouse models.

It further showed that the algorithm can accurately detect if a girl has Rett syndrome, a genetic disorder that impairs cognitive, sensory, motor, and autonomic function starting at 6 to 18 months of age, as well as autism-like behaviours.


Researchers hope this system could provide an early warning signal not just for Rett syndrome but for ASD in general. In the future, they believe it could also be used to monitor patients' responses to treatments; currently, a clinical trial is testing the drug ketamine for Rett syndrome, and a gene therapy trial is planned.

Emotional Distress, Repetitive Behaviour, Impaired Sensitivity: Symptoms Of Autism In Adults
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Autism spectrum disorder, a complex neurobehavioural condition causing problems with communication skills, is usually linked to children. Popularly known as autism, it is characterised by repetitive and rigid behaviour. However, against popular belief, kids are not the only victims of autism.

In most cases, severe forms of autism are diagnosed within the first two years of a child's life. However, in case of high-functioning individuals, the symptoms go unnoticed and untreated until a later stage in life.

This World Autism Awareness Day, acquaint yourself with symptoms of autism in adults.

(Image: Getty)

Autism spectrum disorder, a complex neurobehavioural condition causing problems with communication skills, is usually linked to children. Popularly known as autism, it is characterised by repetitiv..
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Adults with autism usually experience challenges while trying to communicate. Be it at home, with friends or at work, autistic adults have a hard time trying to talk, comprehend and build relationships. Some of these challenges include:

1. Difficulty in relating with others' thoughts
2. Inability to participate in conversations
3. Difficulty in understanding figures of speech
4. Inability to build friendships and relationships
5. Talking in a flat, robotic voice
6. Difficulty in sticking to one conversation

Adults with autism usually experience challenges while trying to communicate. Be it at home, with friends or at work, autistic adults have a hard time trying to talk, comprehend and build relationshi..
Read More

Autistic adults are prone to emotional issues, repetitive and rigid behaviour. From unexpected outbursts to rigidity in work schedules, here are some signs of emotional distress in adults with autism.

1. Difficulty in regulating emotions and responding to them
2. Unexpected outbursts in response to minor changes
3. Rigid work schedules and daily routine
4. Repetitive behaviour

Autistic adults are prone to emotional issues, repetitive and rigid behaviour. From unexpected outbursts to rigidity in work schedules, here are some signs of emotional distress in adults with autism..
Read More

Autistic adults are usually perceived as intellectual people. From a friend or colleague's viewpoint, these are people with deep knowledge of a particular subject and those who excel in non-creative, yet challenging academic subject areas. However, where creativity is required, adults with autism fail to excel.

Autistic adults are usually perceived as intellectual people. From a friend or colleague's viewpoint, these are people with deep knowledge of a particular subject and those who excel in non-creative,..
Read More

Autistic adults are likely to have a clumsy hand. They may also experience difficulty while trying to coordinate.

This group of people may also be less sensitive to sensory inputs like pain, sound and smell.

Autistic adults are likely to have a clumsy hand. They may also experience difficulty while trying to coordinate. This group of people may also be less sensitive to sensory inputs like pain, sound an..
Read More


"We want to have some readout of what's going on in the brain that is quantitative, objective, and sensitive to subtle changes. More broadly, we are lacking biomarkers that are reflective of brain activity, easy to quantify, and not biased. A machine could measure a biomarker and not be affected by subjective interpretations of how a patient is doing," said one of the researchers of the study, Fagiolini.
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Researchers began with the idea that people on the autism spectrum have altered behavioural states. Prior evidence indicates that the brain's cholinergic circuits, which are involved in arousal, are especially perturbed, and that altered arousal affects both spontaneous pupil dilation/constriction and heart rate.

Also, spontaneous pupil dilation and constriction were altered even before the animals began showing ASD-like symptoms, the team found.

In a previous study with researchers showed that visual evoked potentials, an EEG measure of visual processing in the brain, could also serve as a potential biomarker for Rett syndrome.

She believed that together, such biomarkers could offer robust yet affordable screening tools for infants and toddlers, warning of impending neurodevelopmental problems and helping to follow the progression of their development or treatment.
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