Core Biology Honors
Block D Odd
Belluck, Pam. "Baby’s Gaze May Signal Autism, a Study Finds." Baby’s Gaze May Signal Autism a Study Finds. Nytimes.com, 6 Nov. 2013. Web. 07 Nov. 2013. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/a-babys-gaze-may-signal-autism-study-finds/?_r=0>.
In a study just published in Nature, Warren R. Jones and Ami Klin of Emory University and the Marcus Autism Center used eye-tracking technology to show that children who were found to have autism at age three looked less in other people’s eyes when they were babies compared to normal children who did not develop autism. Interestingly, despite what researchers hypothesized, the difference was not apparent at birth. This suggests that the period in which autism develops could be able to slowed down or halted. Babies who gradually stopped looking into people’s eyes over a long period of time developed the most severe cases of autism. Children who cannot maintain eye contact are the ones who display the most symptoms and are the most socially disabled. This observation may lead to the early recognition of autism. Autism treatment therapy has not yet been established for young infants and the number of cases of autism has severely increased in as short a period as six years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated the number has increased from one child in 150 in 2002 to one in 88 in 2008. Researchers speculate a growing number of older fathers could possibly be a factor. Dr. Jones and Dr. Klin, the directors of the autism center, studied two groups of babies. One group was babies with a 20 times greater risk, having siblings with autism. The other group was at low risk, with no direct relatives of autism. The researchers tested 110 children, with a range of ages between two months and two years old. The babies were instructed to watch a video of a friendly woman engaging in motherly behaviors. Eye-tracking technology determined when the babies made eye contact with the women’s eyes, mouth and body and other objects in the background. At age three, the children were evaluated for autism and eleven of the thirty-six children were diagnosed as autistic. The researches determined that the children who developed autism looked more at the mouth of the woman past the age when a typical child lost interest. In addition, the children who developed autism looked more at the objects in the background after the first year then children who did not develop autism.
This article presents groundbreaking research. Researchers and scientists still do not know the cause of autism, and the research conducted by Dr. Jones and Dr. Klin helps present a way to diagnose children at an age younger than three and may potentially lead to the development of ways to slow or reverse the development of autism. Engaging babies in social environments can delay autism. A major symptom is lack of eye contact, as demonstrated in the experiment, and the research may correlate to a better experiment to find autism in infants using eye-tracking technology. I chose this article because over the past summer, I worked at The McCarton School, a school for children with autism. The school was filled with hundreds of children, all on the autism spectrum. Autism is a disorder that needs to be better understood, and the research conducted at the Marcus Autism Center is an original insight that may help lead to treatment.
This article was written clearly and sequentially. I liked the many quotes from a variety of people, ranging from doctors to researchers, who all gave a unique perspective. Autism is complex and the author described the symptoms very lucidly. In addition, I liked the graphs because they helped me visualize all the people affected by autism. However, I feel the author could have provided more background on what is known about the disorder Autism and what other studies have revealed. Some of the quotes included vocabulary that was too medical for the average person. This research is an exciting find that is a significant advance in our understanding of autism, and will hopefully lead to more research and potential treatments.